Private pilots cry shame on aviation minister


While stiffer regulations are on the way for the aviation industry, as government moves ahead with its clamp down on air “hackers”, licensed private operators at the general aviation hanger said Wednesday that they are irate that government has refered to them as “hackers.”

Their outcry came on the heels of comments made Tuesday by Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

“When the public employs a hacker to fly from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, they are taking enormous risk because that hacker has no license, meaning he has not fulfilled the training and certificate requirements necessary to transport passenger for commercial gain,” said D’Aguilar.

Licensed private pilots however, took great exception to his comments and said they felt disrespected that the minister would use a “derogatory,” term to describe them. According to these pilots, they provide frequent family island charter services.

“A ‘hacker,’ is someone who doesn’t have a license, period. None of us who fly are unlicensed. When we spend $60,000 to $70,000 to go to school to attain our license, how you wanna come back and call the man a ‘hacker?’ So, the minister needs to stop using this term,” said Cardinal Williams, a private operator.

“This country needs private operators and I wouldn’t call them ‘hackers.’ These guys been to school and they’re well trained. So, this thing about ‘hacking,’ the minister gatta do away with that,” said Bill Munroe, another private operator.

“A lot of times you’ll find that people fall ill on the islands and it’s only these private operators around sometimes. They offer these Family Island residents emergency flights or they offer services to a lot of people who commercial airlines won’t even service. So how can you clamp down on these people who aren’t doing anything illegal?”

Licensed private operator Edison Colebrooke said, it’s a crying shame that the government would “speak with two tongues”.

“Government agencies have used non-regulated charter companies to fly to our Family Islands and, to date, continue to do so. They have been using these same pilots, and then he (D’Aguilar) wants to come on the news saying they are ‘hackers,’ but yet the government is using them and paying them,” lamented Colebrooke.

“Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) uses them, administrators use them to go back and forth, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) uses them and even during the election season these same government ministers use them. Now they want to come and say they are ‘hacking.’ It’s a very difficult thing to face.

Adding fuel to the fire, the operators told Eyewitness News that the government has yet to call a meeting to civilly discuss the matter.

“No one has been here to even sit down and talk with us. They had a few meetings to their headquarters on Blake Road, but the minister never showed up. The director was not there; everybody ducking and hiding all over the place. They need to come dialogue and see how we can work through this and make the entire industry safer,” said Williams.

D’Aguilar contends that the government’s intent is to make the industry safer, while operating within a regulated framework.

But one private operator who spoke with Eyewitness News on the basis of anonymity, said he will continue to provide services to family island residents because he sees no fault in his actions.

“I am licensed. I am a licensed private operator. I am operating within the law and I will continue to have my planes flown in and out of these islands because the government cannot not tell me, as a licensed pilot and operator, where and how I can fly my plane,” he said.

D’Aguilar told the press Tuesday that regulations to reform a pilot’s ability to fly as commercial or leisure will be reviewed and legislated within the next two months.