Another pipe dream?

The talk has surfaced once again about the setting up of an Aviation Academy at the old Pearl’s airport at Seamoon in St. Andrew’s.

The nation heard about this project for the first time in December last year from Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell when he presented the 2015 budget address to Parliament.

He made a one paragraph sentence then with the following words on the Grenada Aviation Academy, “The Airports Authority is currently pursuing a
public private partnership in discussions with investors from the Caribbean, USA and Europe to establish an Aviation Academy at Pearl’s.

The Academy aims to provide a world class institute for line maintenance, maintenance repair organisations, training in airport management, airline management, air traffic control and licensing of pilots”.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Legal Affairs, Elvin Nimrod broached the topic at a recent post-Cabinet Press Briefing when he alluded to a letter of intent involving a number of parties including the cash-strapped University of the West Indies (UWI) for the establishment of the Academy.

Since the budget speech, nothing much had been heard about the Academy until the Number Two Man in the two-year old administration commented on it within the past two weeks.

THE NEW TODAY would like to get answers to a number of pertinent issues from the powers-that-be on the project.

(1) Was a feasibility study done to determine whether an Aviation Academy is feasible in Grenada?

(2) If a study was done who did it and who paid for it?

(3). Would this project be subsidised in any way by the Grenada Airports Authority or government with the use of taxpayers money?

This question is rather important since research showed that attempts to set up similar Aviation Academies in this part of the world especially in Jamaica and Barbados have failed.

An Aviation Academy at Pearl’s will raise questions about what will happen to the residents in that particular area who are now considered to be in the direct flight path of the airport up there?

It should be noted that the airport at Pearl’s was closed down and a new airstrip built at Point Salines because that facility did not have the best terrain for safe landings of even those LIAT small planes and secondly it did not have the land space for extension of the runway to accommodate larger international flying planes.

An Aviation Academy will have to be large enough in terms of infrastructure to have hangars in place to facilitate the repair of planes? Where is the land space at Pearl’s to do this sort of thing?

Over the years, all sorts of housing developments have taken place in and around the Pearl’s airport without any proper planning. Where are we going to put the displaced homeowners and at what cost in order to facilitate this Aviation Academy?

This newspaper would also like the powers-that-be to give in detail the financial cost to be undertaken to  resurface the runway at Pearls. Who is going to bear this cost?

The planners of projects of this sort must surely take into consideration that they will have to target a certain size aircraft to come into the Academy to do business with them. Will LIAT and CARIBBEAN AIRLINES leave their current arrangements to come to Pearl’s?

There are so many important things that have not been done at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) and yet the powers-that-be are talking about establishing an Aviation Academy.

Right now, the Airport Authority cannot tie down the funds to upgrade the existing runway at the airport at Point Salines, as well as build the much-talked about ring road, install the promised new and modern run way lighting, purchase a console for the Air Traffic Control to provide for much safer landing of planes and the loading bridge for passengers to enter and exit an aircraft in keeping with international standards.

The Airport Authority is already heavy indebted with a huge overdraft in excess of 6 million dollars with a local commercial bank, plus the millions owed to a Merchant Bank in Trinidad and Tobago for development works carried out at the airport over the years.

Can the Airport Authority risk getting involved in other projects that might not be financially sound and well-thought out?

Deputy Prime Minister Nimrod did indicate that the project is in its early stage of development but it is the sincere hope of this newspaper that the nation is given in full and at the appropriate time what exactly does the project entails.

It should not be another “pipe dream” of some smart man with election preparation soon in the air and the need to capture rural Grenada with promises of a few fancy projects.

The rural folks are hurting like the rest of Grenada because what were promised in Campaign 2013 never materialised – Jobs and More Jobs and an influx of foreign investors for the economic development of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique.

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