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Ongoing woes for Mayaguana airport

Use of vehicle lights renews concerns
  • In this April 4, 2013 file photo, Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin speaks with a Mayaguana resident following a fatal crash on the island's airport runway.

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Oct 09, 2013

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Several Mayaguana residents used their vehicles’ high beams to assist in the landing of a plane making an emergency medical flight on Sunday because half of the emergency solar lights at the runway were inoperable, The Nassau Guardian has learnt.

The emergency landing came six months after three people were killed in an accident on that runway under similar circumstances.

In June, Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin and MICAL MP V. Alfred Gray said emergency solar lights were in place on the runway, and the practice of using vehicles had been abandoned.

Hanna-Martin also said the Civil Aviation Department had purchased permanent solar lights that would be installed on completion of work on the runway.

A source close to the matter said around half of the emergency solar lights that were being used for the first time to land an emergency flight did not work and a contingency plan was put into action.

The source said the remaining emergency solar lights were used on the runway along with vehicles’ high beams to guide the plane, which landed without incident.

The Nassau Guardian understands around 32 emergency solar lights were delivered to Mayaguana.

“There was someone who had a heart attack and...it was recommended that they go to Nassau as quickly as possible,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“You do what you have to do to ensure the safety of all persons concerned, and also to save a life. That was the primary concern.

“Those lights that were not working were reported to the proper authorities — the Civil Aviation Department.

“They would have had their technicians come down to Mayaguana and check those lights out, and effect [those] repairs.”

The source claimed that police officers and an engineer parked those vehicles around 50 feet away from either side of the runway in light of the fatal crash in April.

The mother, sister and brother-in-law of former Cabinet Minister Sidney Collie were killed when a medical emergency plane crashed into their truck on that runway.

They were using their truck’s high beams on the runway to guide the emergency medical plane onto the runway.

On Saturday, a Flamingo Air plane made a daytime emergency landing after it experienced an issue while landing at the Mayaguana airport.

There were no passengers on board and the two pilots did not sustain injuries, according to authorities.

Gray said on Friday following that scare, “I feel sure that this other incident must cause the developers and the contractors of the runway to feel a sense of urgency in bringing some end to what could have been a tragic situation.”

He said he did not know the exact reason for the delay.

Project delayed

Meanwhile, an I-Group representative said yesterday the original October completion date for the redevelopment of the Mayaguana airport runway has been pushed to mid-November.

Tim Haffner, project manager for the I-Group’s Mayaguana Management Company, said developers have been “frustrated” by the delays surrounding the redevelopment of the runway, but they are working hard on the project.

He said one of the delays stemmed from a disagreement between the developers and the government over whether 1,500 feet of runway needed to be redone.

The I-Group completed that work seven years ago, according to Haffner.

Ministry of Works Director John Canton, who was contacted for comment, said while he had limited knowledge about the matter, the ministry was not pleased with the quality of work previously done on a portion of the runway.

“We are requesting that it is overhauled, and as I understand it those discussions are ongoing, but nearing completion,” Canton said, though he differed further questions to Dexter Williams, a senior engineer.

Haffner said the developers eventually agreed to overhaul the work, despite their view that the work was good.

He said the matter took some time to resolve, but the developers will now pave 6,700 feet of runway instead of 5,500.

“We just got finished tearing it out and grading it, which slowed us down a little bit,” Haffner said.

But Haffner said the malfunction of the developer’s asphalt plant was another problem.

“We’re basically ready for asphalt and we had a motor go out on our asphalt plant, [and it] is going to take us a week or so to get that adjustment,” he said.

“The delays are explainable. It’s just that they (government officials) are quite anxious because of the issues on this runway. I know they are frustrated as are we.”

Work on the airport resumed on June 11, according to officials.

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