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2005-12-29 16:01:39

Hopelessly Incompetent

Try as it might to project an image of competence, it is quite evident that the Airport Authority is just not up to the challenge handed it by the Government of The Bahamas.

The Nassau International Airport is a sore thumb that apparently will not just go away. This weekend past it proved to be most embarrassing as aircraft were impeded in landing and takeoff. Some of the troubles derived from a faulty radar system.

This situation obliges us to recall comments made some two years ago by none other than Kerzner International CEO Sol Kerzner who has described the Nassau International Airport as being 'about the worst airport in the world'.

Mr. Kerzner went on to point out: "We have a wonderful destination and wonderful people, but we have about the worst airport in the world. And this is not a new development, but this is something that existed from since we first got here."

Today the rot has set in even deeper.

Notwithstanding Kerzner's call, little seems to be happening.

We hasten to add that we are not unmindful of the fact that change is costly. Delay and incompetence is always even more costly.

As we have previously noted, one measure of this high cost of airport upgrade is to be found in the fact that the House of Assembly has approved a resolution for the Government to guarantee a loan of $40 million from the Royal Bank of Canada to the Airport Authority for the reconstruction of runway 14/32 at Nassau International Airport.

On the question of upgrading the airport itself, there will be other large costs. In this regard, we agree with Minister of Transport and Aviation, the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin when she talks about matters germane to costs involved.

As she rightly notes, "It involves tremendous expenditure and the Government must be creative in its approach to addressing the challenges posed throughout this country, particularly by looking closely at public/private joint ventures such as we anticipate at NIA." Therein we find the rub.

This point noted, the government must still act with dispatch.

In the absence of decisive action, more disaster beckons.

Try as it might to project an image of competence, it is quite evident that the Airport Authority is just not up to the challenge handed it by the Government of The Bahamas.

If there was any doubt about this conclusion, they would have been dispelled by the Christmas Eve fiasco that left hundreds of passengers marooned in the lobby of the airport.

As the attentive public now knows, the radar system blinked off around 7 p.m. Christmas Eve. We also know that it took several hours for technicians to determine that several parts had burned out.

The malfunction didn't shut the airport, but forced controllers to resort to an older, slower system called ''procedural approach,'' by which pilots constantly report their altitude and position to the control tower by radio.

In those circumstances, the system also results in aircraft stacked in holding patterns awaiting clearance to land. The method cut the typical holiday rate of 60 to 70 takeoffs and landings a day at Nassau International to about 30 to 40.

While provision must be made for the unforeseen, this clearly is not one of them.

Everything that happened could have and should have been prevented. There was no proper maintenance on the equipment.

This was nothing more and nothing less than incompetence run amok. There was no real sense of urgency to fix the problem, with officials going through bureaucratic red tape like not alerting the Customs Department that a part should be cleared speedily or not giving special priority and consideration to the aircraft bringing in the part for the radar.

We are absolutely convinced that situations like this one will continue so long as the running of the airport remains in the hands of Civil Servants.

As regards some of the specifics of the current snafu, everyone now knows that scores of airline passengers who expected to be in Nassau, The Bahamas, by Monday night instead found themselves unexpectedly in Miami because of a broken radar system at the island nation's international airport, which impaired flight operations there.

The inoperable system cut the normal flow of air traffic into Nassau by about half, which caused some flights to be canceled and others to be unexpectedly diverted to Miami International Airport.

This sad situation should today be seen for what is, namely a wakeup call for the Government of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas to be up and doing concerning the privatization of the Nassau International Airport.

Editorial from The Bahama Journal

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