SkyBahamas exploring legal recourse

SkyBahamas exploring legal recourse

Airline has been grounded since July 8, 2019

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — SkyBahamas CEO Captain Randy Butler said yesterday that while he hopes to resolve outstanding “technical” issues with the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) to resume operations, he has not ruled out legal action over its order to ground the airline.

SkyBahamas was grounded on July 8.

“All options are open, but this was supposed to be a technical matter,” he told Eyewitness News Online.

“I am confused on the director general’s press conference, [which] did not represent the letter he gave me on Thursday before saying what the issues were; and one of them was the ops manual and we’ve asked for assistance [to] tell us which volume of the manual you need updated or changed.

“At [that], they said they were willing to give 30 days to fix that and then there was a position for a safety officer that they say is not filled. The whole point is that… I’m following the regulations that they’ve given me and the guidance material I have.

“So you have to forgive me if I am following those and they are not.”

At a press conference this week, BCAA Director General Charles Beneby said the authority will not be “coerced, bullied or strong-armed” into granting an air operators certificate unless and until it is satisfied that SkyBahamas can perform the functions granted by the certificate.

The authority said it received an application to renew SkyBahamas’ certificate nine days prior to the expiration of the certificate, and there were several issues outstanding as a result of an inspection.

“The regulations require an applicant to submit a request for renewal at least 30 days prior to the expiration of that certificate,” Beneby noted.

He also said inspectors conducted a site visit and of the six findings that were still outstanding, the authority and the airline were able to resolve half.

He added that the authority was still willing to work with SkyBahamas, notwithstanding “all of the things that have gone on”.

The airline underwent another review on August 8, according Butler, who said the authority was still not satisfied.

He said the BCAA took objection to the individual brought in to fill the role of safety inspector, among other issues.

He said he has sought to work with the authority, but noted that the “there is really no need for this at all”.

“My whole goal is if I can keep this as a technical matter and we can work this out as a technical matter, that is where I would like to keep it,” he said.

“But I am sure you would have known we would have lost goodwill, a lot of money, and to pay staff, creditors — the whole lot — and there is really no need for this at all.

“There was no safety concern per their guidance material. Although they use that word they have refused to categorize or itemize what they would have called the safety concern because we asked them to so we can address it and the issues that they originally started with — we finally got a response from the director — they have been changed.”

The CEO maintains that the matter appears to be motivated by personal and political reasons on the part of the authority, a claim Beneby has vehemently denied.

The authority has also noted that there was a case where a pilot, who have relevant technical certificates, did not have a valid medical for the category and class aircraft that he operated under.

Beneby said in that case, the system intended to monitor that failed.

In response, Butler said, “We discovered that and when we discovered that we [took] immediate action, and we told them when they came to do an inspection, it was showed to them. We showed them that it was already taken care of; the guy is gone — he is off duty — and has gone to get his medical. We can’t minimize that. That should not have happened.”

Losses

SkyBahamas’ approximately 60 employees remain at home.

It’s financial losses are in the “millions”.

The airline has been unable to meet bookings of passengers, many of whom have demanded refunds.

Butler said SkyBahamas has a loyal customer-base which has been patient with the airline, though he acknowledged that there are those who have been understandably irate with the situation.