Efforts to get the country back to FAA Category 1 | THE DAILY HERALD

Winair aircraft at Saba’s Juancho Yrausquin Airport.


AIRPORT–Windward Islands Airways Winair, together with the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT) and the Department of Civil Aviation, Shipping and Maritime Affairs, is working to return St. Maarten to its former United States (US) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) category one rating. This could prove fruitful to local airlines and St. Maarten’s economy as a whole, Winair Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Michael Cleaver explained to The Daily Herald on Tuesday, February 8.

  The Parliament of Curaçao recently approved a Passenger Oversight Charge to help cover the cost of complying with the global safety standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). This to have the country’s aviation status return to category one status of the FAA.

  This status is considered important for economic development as both Curaçao and St. Maarten were downgraded to category two after the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved. Another reason for this was the sudden death of two of the country’s leading aviation experts as they were killed in the 2011 earthquake in Haiti while attending a conference.

  When the two countries lost FAA’s category one status, local airlines were no longer allowed to land on any American territory. This meant that Winair flights stopped flying to St. Thomas, Puerto Rico and St. Croix with their own aircrafts. That is one of the reasons why the company currently leases Air Antilles planes to fly to these destinations.

  According to Cleaver, St. Maarten’s civil aviation department must take several steps to satisfy FAA’s strict standards for category one. The CEO explained to The Daily Herald that the first step would have to do with politics. St. Maarten could pass legislation similar to Curaçao’s recent National Ordinance passed by Parliament to collect passenger fees to help offset the costs of civil aviation. This fee would help fund the additional oversight, personnel, training, and equipment needed to comply with the standards.

  Cleaver also emphasised that St. Maarten’s current category two status does not mean the country’s aviation is insecure. “Local airlines are completely safe,” he assured.

  Still, Winair fully supports the efforts to return to category one, Cleaver said. He explained that this would offer the island more opportunities in the world of aviation. Not only would Winair be able to fly to American territories once again, but smaller charters such as SXM Airways would also be able to broaden their horizons.

  Additionally, category one could boost tourism to St. Maarten and neighbouring islands as local airlines could sign code-sharing deals with American Airlines, said Cleaver. This would make it a lot easier to book one ticket from American territory to Saba or St. Eustatius for example.

  Another potential opportunity has to do with St. Maarten’s airline registration. If the country returns to category one, foreign planes could register locally. This is for example the case in Aruba, where Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich was able to register his private jet for tax purposes because of Aruba’s category one status.

  “Winair is looking forward to working with the Ministry of TEATT and the Department of Civil Aviation, Shipping and Maritime Affairs to return to category one as it opens lots of doors for the country,” Cleaver concluded.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/efforts-to-get-the-country-back-to-faa-category-1