by Makeda Mikael
Prime Minister Mia Mottley is getting ready to take back the aviation glory of its former days, when Barbados held the premier aviation destination, providing its own air charter operation to Luxembourg, Europe, and boasted a superior Civil Aviation Division and an excellent homegrown aviation lawyer.
Today Barbados is refitting their Civil Aviation Authority and seeking their Category 1 accreditation; and, recognizing that to attract the 1% of the one percent (wealthy, famous, Royal) the location must have at minimum a corporate aviation hangar for privacy, they are expanding hangar space to open up to very high end clients whose mega yachts seek safe harbour, and respectable privacy in the small OECS islands.
Two years ago aviation specialists watched in dread, as Barbados and St. Vincent sought to bury the regional carrier Leeward Islands Air Transport, in a time of panic and pandemic, before replacement of the essential air transport services provided by LIAT throughout the Eastern Caribbean and Guyana.
The blame must be squarely placed on the shoulders of the LIAT Chairman of the Board, who just happened to be the Prime Minister of St. Vincent, Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, who had sat in that seat for twenty years or more.
The then newly elected first female Prime Minister of Barbados Hon. Mia Mottley was an easy target in this alliance to bury LIAT, but whatever phoenix was sold to persuade her, was a figment of someone’s imagination, and probably the eagerness of politics to launch the newly built international airport in St. Vincent.
Now that movement in the air is normalized in the region, those who failed to invest in LIAT and those who were instrumental in the grounding of LIAT, are finding out the importance of a region’s reliance on its own feeder airline.
It is not too late for a newly built regional carrier to rise out of the ashes of LIAT which has been kept in the air by Antigua, an early nurturer of the fledgling airline of the Leeward Islands.
Years ago an American carrier approached consultants in the region for help in buying LIAT, only to find out the real source of untapped funds in and beyond LIAT the airline.
The Americans were interested in the LIAT routes, as the Eastern Caribbean provides the best flying ground to train and grow pilots.
LIAT’s human resource already mobilized on their own turf, a regional aviation university with an impeccable track record was completely overlooked, as Caribbean Governments fail to consider the pearls of the Caribbean and their usefulness. Barbados may becoming ‘woke.’