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Stirring opening to CARICOM Inter-Sessional

 

 

 

Stirring opening to CARICOM Inter-Sessional – Video highlights
(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana)     The Twenty-Eighth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) opened Thursday morning at the Marriott Hotel, Georgetown, Guyana.
 
Speakers at the Opening included CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque,  Prime Minister of Dominica, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, and CARICOM Chairman and President of Guyana, HE David Granger.

More in this video report:   https://vimeo.com/204469890
 
 

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Argyle Airport SVD

St. Vincent and the Grenadines opens new multi-million dollar international airport

By Kenton X. Chance

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb 14, CMC – St. Vincent and the Grenadines Argyle International Airport was officially opened Monday evening with a flag raising ceremony in which Prime Minister Dr.  Ralph Gonsalves said that the facility is “a symbol, it is a metaphor of what is possible in us.

“Do not ever allow any people, any nation to impose on us limitations to our imagination,” he told the large crowd that turned out to the opening of the EC$700 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) facility, six years behind schedule.

“Only we, as a self-governing people under God, with our own individual sense of being; only we must impose limitations on ourselves. Any other notion is a colonial one, and it is debilitating and it will hold us back,” said Gonsalves, who in 2005 announced his administration’s plan to build an international airport at Argyle, on the eastern side of the island.

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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves

“Whatever we set our minds to achieve, with patience and calm, we can achieve, as we have seen it here. This is a bridge to the world. And this plan didn’t just come from us. It is a combination of human intelligence and divine inspiration,” Gonsalves said and sang the chorus “I’m building a Bridge”.

Monday’s flag raising was one of two events to mark the opening of the airport, which begins operations later on Tuesday with scheduled flights by intra-regional carriers, LIAT and Grenadine Air Alliance.

A number of international chartered flights from North America and Cuba are also scheduled to land on Tuesday at the airport, which has contributed EC$400 million to the EC$1.6 billion national debt.

The airport has a runway that is 9,000 feet long and 150 feet wide. The terminal building has been designed to process 1.5 million passengers annually and 800 persons an hour at peak.

Gonsalves, who will also address Tuesday’s ceremony, said “today was supposed to be a very simple function and look at the thousands who are here.

“ (Tuesday) I believe we are going to see the largest crowd ever assembled at one place in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And we are going to have a good time. We are going to have a good time because we have been blessed,” he said.

In his address, Gonsalves reiterated that the events on Monday and Tuesday are national ones.

“This is a not a party, political event; neither the one tomorrow (Tuesday). There is enough time, which we have spent on those arguments and we may well spend them on the arguments in the future, but today, now, and tomorrow (Tuesday), with our guests in our midst, I want to ensure that we have a national event, worthy of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said.

“It is inevitable, in the nature of competitive politics, that this or that matter may be said; that something may creep in. But, as prime minister of the country, I want to reaffirm, yet again, that this is a national event,” Gonsalves said, using the event to thank the nations and institutions that contributed to the successful completion of the airport.

He thanked the CARICOM Development Fund, which, of its own resources and through resources from Turkey, contributed to the airport and thanked also the president and the government and the people of Taiwan, which donated the terminal building.

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Opposition Leader Goodwin Friday at Monday’s ceremonial opening

He also recognised “very specially”, three other major partners, namely Venezuela, Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago, which will be featured during Tuesday’s celebratory rally.

President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro is slated to attend and speak at the event as well as Cuban Vice-President, Salvador Mesa.

Gonsalves paid a special tribute to the memory of his “dear friend and brother”, the late prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning, whose widow, Hazel will speak during Tuesday’s rally.

Gonsalves also used the ceremony to recognise other representatives of countries that have assisted with the airport, namely, Austria, Mexico, Turkey, Libya, Georgia, and Iran.

“We have had contributions from countries; some of them do not have diplomatic relations with one another. And part of the creativity and skill of the government was to bring all of these countries together to assist the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Gonsalves also thanked the governments of Britain, Canada, and the United States of America, whose respective export credit guarantee systems assisted “with certain items of equipment which we purchased, but, because of the guarantee systems we got them on better interest terms”.

Opposition Leader, Godwin Friday, speaking to the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) said the event had the pomp and ceremony that he expected.

“And I hope that the airport turns out to be what we expect as well.”

Friday did not give a clear answer as to whether opposition lawmakers would attend Tuesday’s event, saying “we will see. We will take it one day at a time.”

He said that decision would be informed by “what the nature of the exercise is.

“I think right now what we want to do is to show that commitment to people that this is a national project and whatever the criticisms are, we, in the opposition, we have to raise questions about things that we see in major projects or in government policy that raise concern.

“And if we do that, that doesn’t mean that we are rejecting entirely or we are unpatriotic, as some people might say. We are doing our job. When the project is completed, we hope that, based on the input we have given, that it becomes a better project.”

Friday said opposition lawmakers were at the event to show that they want the project to succeed.

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CTO’s acting director of research Ryan Skeete (left) and secretary general Hugh Riley

Caribbean tourist arrivals hit all time high

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Feb. 9, CMC – Caribbean tourism broke new ground in 2016, surpassing 29 million arrivals for the first time ever, and once again growing faster than the global average.

“Despite political, security and economic uncertainties and challenges in our main source markets, tourist arrivals to the Caribbean increased by 4.2 per cent in 2016, better than the 3.9 per cent overall internationally,” secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Hugh Riley announced Thursday in presenting the Caribbean Tourism Performance Report 2016.

CTO’s acting director of research Ryan Skeete (left) and secretary general Hugh Riley

CTO’s Ag. Dir. of Research Ryan Skeete (left) and Sec. Gen. Hugh Riley

“Encouragingly, we welcomed over one million more visitors last year than in 2015, to reach 29.3 million, continuing our proud record of continuous growth for the seventh straight year,” he told a news conference held at CTO headquarters, and streamed to a global audience.

Visitor expenditure also hit a new high, growing by an estimated 3.5 per cent to reach  US$35.5 billion.

The United States remained the Caribbean’s primary market with an estimated 14.6 million stay-over arrivals, up 3.5 per cent on 2015.

However, it was Europe that recorded the highest rate of growth among the main source markets, led by strong increases from Germany (8.2 per cent) and the United Kingdom (4.1 per cent).

“Despite terrorist attacks in some countries, the Brexit referendum in the UK and bumpy economic outcomes across continental Europe, arrivals from that market climbed by 11.4 per cent, to reach 5.6 million. The strong European performance was evident by the healthy increases of between six and 16.8 per cent in each month, compared to the corresponding month in 2015,” Mr. Riley said.

Intra- Caribbean travel also so performed well, recording a 3.6 per cent increase – the second straight year of growth – despite costly and fragmented air service.

Canada, normally a robust market for the Caribbean, recorded a decrease for the first time since 1994, and only the second contraction since 1982. The 3.3 million arrivals from that market represented a 3.4 per cent drop when compared to 2015.

The South American market also contracted by 10.6 per cent, mainly due to political instability in two of the main sources.

The CTO secretary general also revealed that cruise arrivals grew at a slower pace of 1.3 per cent to approximately 26.3 million, while the hotel sector recorded negative growth, with all hotel indicators contracting, with the exception of the number of available rooms, which grew by just over one per cent, according to Smith Travel Research.

Regarding the outlook for 2017, the CTO predicts increases of 2.5 and 3.5 per cent in long-stay arrivals and increases of between 1.5 per cent and 2.5 per cent in cruise passenger arrivals.

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UN experts say US travel ban – a ‘significant setback’ for those needing international protection

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 2, , CMC – A group of experts from the United Nations has expressed concern that the new executive order by United States President Donald Trump is in breach of the country’s human rights commitments.

“Such an order is clearly discriminatory based on one’s nationality and leads to increased stigmatization of Muslim communities,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on migrants –  François Crépeau; on racisim –  Mutuma Ruteere; on  human rights and counter terrorism – Ben Emmerson; on torture –  Nils Melzer; and on freedom of religion –  Ahmed Shaheed. in a statement issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

index“The US recent policy on immigration also risks people being returned, without proper individual assessments and asylum procedures, to places in which they risk being subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in direct contravention of international humanitarian and human rights laws which uphold the principle of non-refoulement,” they warned.

The Executive Order, signed by Trump on January 27, bars all nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – from entering the US for the next 90 days.

It also stops the entire US refugee programme for 120 days, indefinitely bans Syrian refugees, and halts the planned entry of more than 50,000 refugees in the US fiscal year 2017, which began in October 2016 and will end in September 2017.

Noting that “in the midst of the world’s greatest migration crisis since World War II, this is a significant setback for those who are obviously in need of international protection,” the rights experts stressed: “The US must live up to its international obligations and provide protection for those fleeing persecution and conflicts.”

“The US is also involved in conflicts such as those in Iraq and Syria and its responsibility must extend to offering refuge to those fleeing from the conflicts,” they added.

The Executive Order also applies to those who come from the countries listed – whether or not they have valid visa documents or are in transit.

It also affects those who have dual nationality, who either have a passport from one of those countries or are travelling from one of those countries.

“This is deeply troubling, and we are additionally concerned that such persons travelling to the US will be subject to detention for an undefined period of time and then ultimately deported,” the human rights experts said.

Earlier this week Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarkes warned that Trump’s order may extend to the Caribbean.

“I am concerned that he could expand that if we don’t organize and push back now,” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told an emergency meeting of the Muslim community in her Brooklyn, New York district Sunday night.

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Antigua-Barbuda closes 2016 on a high, celebrating 100,000th US visitor arrival

 CNN — January 2, 2017  
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From left: ABTA CEO, Colin James; Tourism Cadet, Alicia Paul; Tourism Consultant Shirlene Nibbs, 100,000th visitors Greg Murphy and Jean Larsen; US Director of Tourism, Kim Jack Riley

ST JOHN’S, Antigua — Antigua and Barbuda ended 2016 on a high note by celebrating the arrival of the 100,000th US visitor in the year for the first time in recorded arrivals history. This milestone is a crowning achievement in a banner year for tourism that included announcing multiple new properties, breaking ground on new projects, the extension of Heritage Quay Pier that welcomed a Quantum class vessel, Anthem of the Seas, for the first time and a variety of awards and achievements. 

The 100,000th US visitor was Jean Larsen, an artist and philanthropist, working with Pink Rock, a breast cancer survivor charity. Larsen who was traveling with her partner, Greg Murphy, on American Airlines from New York-JFK to VC Bird International Airport, was greeted by the minister of tourism, economic development, investment and energy, Asot Michael; CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Colin C. James; tourism consultant Shirlene Nibbs; US director of tourism, Kim Jack Riley; and tourism cadet, Alicia Paul, with flowers and prizes.

All of the passengers on the flight were treated to special music and dancers upon arrival, as well as a gift bag filled with local delicacies and a discount code for island tours to complement their stays.

Michael shared his pleasure at reaching this landmark, “Today is a great day for Antigua and Barbuda as we mark a significant milestone and celebrate the end of a momentous year for our country. Despite trends across the region showing a decrease in visitor arrivals and spend, our twin-isle nation is defying the odds and showing significant growth in both, including double-digit growth from the US market. Antigua and Barbuda is asserting itself as the new leader in the Caribbean, from new properties, to a growing cruise market, to increased airlift, and we predict 2017 will be an even stronger year in tourism.”

Tourism arrivals from the US have been strong throughout the year, with double-digit growth month over month. According to the latest statistics, at the end of November 2016, arrivals from the US were at an 18.35% year over year increase that is predicted to remain the same or grow once December figures are released.

This growth is particularly significant as the US remains Antigua and Barbuda’s largest source market for arrivals. Overall visitor arrivals have also increased by a strong 7.42% year over year as of November with numbers suggesting the year will end on a substantial increase with over 250,000 visitors overall.

 

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Jaden Sun

New ferry to resume services between Montserrat and Antigua

Jaden Sun

Jaden Sun

In a release on Friday, the Government of Montserrat says it is pleased to announce that the ferry service between Montserrat and Antigua will resume on Friday, December 2nd, 2016.

In a press conference on Thursday November 24th, 2016, Honourable Premier Donaldson Romeo indicated to the press that the Government of Montserrat has entered a ferry services contract with the Ferry Operator Jaden Inc. of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Jaden Inc. is the owner of the fast ferry Jaden Sun which has the capacity to carry 218 passengers and some small cargo .During the press conference owner and Captain of Jaden Sun Elvis Gooding, expressed his enthusiasm in offering his company’s services to Montserrat and pledged his commitment to the Government and people of Montserrat.

Jaden Sun is expected to operate up to 6 days per week between Montserrat and Antigua with the possibility of occasional excursions to St Kitts, Nevis, Guadeloupe and St. Maarten.

Ticket prices are expected to remain the same as follows:

Round Trip Adults – EC $300

Round Trip Children under 12 years – EC $150

Round Trip 0 – 2 years – EC $50

More to come in TMR full report

Jaden Sun ferry – https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GOEI3M98dXk

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Disaster officials monitoring increase in activity at Dominica’s Boiling Lake

 
ROSEAU, Dominica, Nov. 18, CMC – Visitors to the Boiling Lake – a volcano-Hydrothermal feature located in the southern end of the island, have been urged avoid visiting the area due to a change in water levels.

The warning was issued by Office of Disaster Management and the Trinidad and Tobago based Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine campus.

It’s reported that water levels have been changing in recent days, a phenomenon that has occurred several times since 1876.

The Boiling Lake is located in an area next to the Valley of Desolation – the lake levels have dropped significantly and been restored at least seven times in the recorded history – 1876, 1900, 1901, 1971, 1988 and 2004.

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Dominica boiling lake

Earlier this month, visitors to the Boiling Lake reported a significant decrease in water levels, a situation that was confirmed by UWI scientists.

The scientists, however noted that changes in water levels at the Boiling Lake are not necessarily related to increased volcanic activity in the area or to geothermal exploration.

However, during these episodes harmful gases, such as Carbon Dioxide, can be released and small steam explosions may also occur.

The last such occurrence was December 2004 to April 2005.

In the wake of this latest development, the disaster officials report that people are swimming in the lake as the water is now cold, however they have been warned to leave the area immediately as the water can return to its original boiling state with little or no warning.

The general public has also been told to avoid the area until the activity has subsided and only officials involved in the monitoring of the Boiling Lake should venture in that area.

CMC/kb/2016

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The Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800 flying in for a first low-level pass over the new St Helena Airport, below the ruin of Prosperous Bay House and King & Queen Rock.

British Airways 737-800 First Landing On St Helena

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The Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800 flying in for a first low-level pass over the new St Helena Airport, below the ruin of Prosperous Bay House and King & Queen Rock.

The Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800 flying in for a first low-level pass over the new St Helena Airport, below the ruin of Prosperous Bay House and King & Queen Rock.

THE FLIGHT FROM THE TOP OF THE BARN | Sharon Henry

The last time we clambered onto ‘The Barn‘ the airport runway was only partially laid, this time we’ve scrambled up to watch an actual aeroplane land on that completed piece of gleaming concrete. And not just any aeroplane, a spanking new Boeing 737-800, operated by Comair, emblazoned with British Airways livery in the red, white and blue of the Union Jack. It’s the first passenger plane to touchdown on the new landing strip, the BIG one after the three smaller calibration flights before it.

Taking A Risk Or Two

Photography is often all about different angles; we also like to add a little adventure and for today’s special shoot we spiced it up with some altitude. That is to the dizzying 616 metre height of ‘The Barn,’ one of St Helena’s most challenging (and may I add dangerous) hikes.

On our way to try a different angle for the big Boeing's arrival. The large boxy hulk of The Barn in the distance, very grey and dull on an overcast morning.

On our way to try a different angle for the big Boeing’s arrival. The large boxy hulk of The Barn in the distance, very grey and dull on an overcast morning.

Arriving at The Barn Post Box with the cloud closing in. At 616m, this is one of the more difficult post box walks on St Helena, nearly all of the route is over steep, difficult terrain.

Arriving at The Barn Post Box with the cloud closing in. At 616m, this is one of the more difficult post box walks on St Helena, nearly all of the route is over steep, difficult terrain.

There are a number of these solar powered safety beacons that have been installed on top of the Barn as part of the St Helena Airport project. Quite impressive that someone carried all this equipement up here!

There are a number of these solar powered safety beacons that have been installed on top of the Barn as part of the St Helena Airport project. Quite impressive that someone carried all this equipment up here!

The Barn is a hulking brute of a rock that from ground level seems to jut scarily close into the flight path of approaching aircraft. We decided last minute it would be a great spot to get a different angle and maybe even reach out and touch the plane!

It was one of those things though that sounded like a good idea at the time. However, in the cold, cloudy light of dawn it lost some fizz when I thought of the two hour plus walk we had ahead of us. I should also mention that The Barn is notorious for unpredictable cloud cover that can accumulate suddenly. One minute there’ll be glorious sunshine the next a complete white-out. We were taking a risk and after a hard slog we could end up with an empty memory card.

The St Helena Weather

There was already a fluffy layer of cloud on The Barn when we set off on the dot of 8, lugging cameras, telephoto lens, heavy-weight tripod, sandwiches and birthday cake. Our godson’s 10th birthday was to be marked with this milestone.

Amazing views from the top of The Barn, especially with the weather now clear. Munching into our sandwiches and birthday cake while we wait on Comair/British Airways to arrive at St Helena.

Amazing views from the top of The Barn, especially with the weather now clear. Munching into our sandwiches and birthday cake while we wait on Comair/British Airways to arrive at St Helena.

The long wait is finally over - the Comair operated, British Airways 737-800 appears behind us over the top of The Barn, lining up on the runway.

The long wait is finally over – the Comair operated, British Airways 737-800 appears behind us over the top of The Barn, lining up on the runway.

British Airways 737-800 lands on St Helena - What The Saints Did

The new St Helena Airport is built in the shadow King & Queen Rock which provides a dramatic backdrop for the British Airways 737-800 as it approaches the beginning of the runway.

Not wanting to get caught out by missing status updates, we tuned into SAMS Radio 1 for changes in the flight schedule. The ETA had moved from 11.40 to 11.50am. The weather ran through a repertoire of dullness, splashes of blue sky, spots of rain, swathes of mist then a miraculous turn to clear skies and sunshine.

By the time we’d eaten our picnic and licked our fingers of cake crumbs we had an hour of playing the waiting game.

Darrin, having learned from his error of missing the fly-pass of the first plane to land on St Helena‘s a few months ago due to chatting, was now a stickler for preparedness and constantly scanned the skyline whilst listening for jet engine sounds.

Sea Rescue service on standby off the coastline, viewed from the top of The Barn.

Sea Rescue service on standby off the coastline, viewed from the top of The Barn.

737-800 Landing On St Helena

Then at 11.52 the shiny tube of ZS-ZWG popped into sight from behind us and it was action stations; camera on rapid burst and video camera rolling.

The pilot did a brilliantly skilful fly-by skimming just 50 feet above the runway, much to our delight and I’m sure the large population of onlookers, including the island’s school children, who had congregated around the safety zones of the brand new St Helena airport. Darrin being a ‘Top Gun’ nut was ecstatic.

Great view of the brand new jet as she glides past The Barn against the blue Atlantic, about to carry out the second fly-by at the new St Helena Airport. The British Airways 737-800 is operated by South African airline, Comair.

Great view of the brand new jet as she glides past The Barn against the blue Atlantic, about to carry out the second fly-by at the new St Helena Airport. The British Airways 737-800 is operated by South African airline, Comair.

View from near the Millennium Forest of the Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800 on final approach to the St Helena Airport, with spectators on the top of Horse Point. Photo courtesy of Pat Henry.

View from near the Millennium Forest of the Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800 on final approach to the St Helena Airport, with spectators on the top of Horse Point.
Photo courtesy of Pat Henry.

The St Helena Airport landscape is a ruggedly dramatic sight for passengers on flights making the final approach to the runway.

The St Helena Airport landscape is a ruggedly dramatic sight for passengers on flights making the final approach to the runway.

Then after it had circled around and come in on a second approach, this time with landing gear down, we had a heart-stopping moment. Just as the wheels were about to kiss the runway, the aircraft suddenly pulled up hard and fast and leapt back into the sky. Not sure if it was a planned test or a problem with landing but it certainly was dramatic.

The 737-800 on its second pass looked as though it was about to touch down, then suddenly powered up and climbed steeply away from the runway.

The 737-800 on its second pass looked as though it was about to touch down, then suddenly powered up and climbed steeply away from the runway.

British Airways 737-800 lands on St Helena - What The Saints Did

The dramatic and stunning final approach for aircraft landing at the new St Helena Airport, flying in over the Atlantic Ocean, right past King & Queen Rock before landing. This is the very first ‘big’ aircraft to land here, a Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800. The airplane has flown from Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800 landing at the new St Helena Airport. The colourful earth and lunar terrain on Prosperous Bay Plain makes for a dramatic arrival scene for passengers.

The Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800 landing at the new St Helena Airport.
The colourful earth and lunar terrain on Prosperous Bay Plain makes for a dramatic arrival scene for passengers.

Touchdown at 12:08 for the Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800, the first of its size and type to land at St Helena Airport. Viewed from near the Millennium Forest with spectators at Bradley's Camp visible in the foreground. Photo courtesy of Pat Henry.

Touchdown at 12:08 for the Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800, the first of its size and type to land at St Helena Airport. Viewed from near the Millennium Forest with spectators at Bradley’s Camp visible in the foreground.
Photo courtesy of Pat Henry.

St Helena Airport in the distance has a Boeing 737-800 on the apron.

St Helena Airport in the distance has a Boeing 737-800 on the apron.

The third round was less so and the airplane touched down at 12.08pm with a textbook landing. A happy pilot no doubt and contented photographers; we had three chances to capture some excellent shots especially with the awesome backdrop of King & Queen Rocks and Prosperous Bay House.

The Only Way Is Up From Here

I still find it astonishing that we have an airport here on St Helena. And today is particularly poignant thinking of the loved ones who did not live to enjoy this moment with us. Crazy though, that finally we are entering the world of air travel. I’m getting a head rush from the excitement coursing through my veins thinking of the easier and cheaper travel options soon to be available for Saints.

Mind you, that head rush might also be attributed to thoughts of our two hour return journey. But coming here was definitely worth the effort of adding more amazing albums to our adventures in photography.

Hundreds of islanders turned out to witness the Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800, land at St Helena Airport. This the long line of vehicles leaving on the Bottomwoods Road after the event. Photo courtesy of Pat Henry.

Hundreds of islanders turned out to witness the Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800, land at St Helena Airport. This the long line of vehicles leaving on the Bottomwoods Road after the event.
Photo courtesy of Pat Henry.

Making the long walk back home after a successul day on top of The Barn shooting the first passenger jet to land on St Helena.

Making the long walk back home after a successul day on top of The Barn shooting the first passenger jet to land on St Helena.

St Helena's new Airport has passed its first big test - a Boeing 737-800 has made a first landing and is taxing to the terminal.

St Helena’s new Airport has passed its first big test – a Boeing 737-800 has made a first landing and is taxing to the

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Final approach on the southern end of the airport, the Avro RJ100 preparing to land at runway 02 at St Helena. The Atlantic Star Airlines demonstrating the aircraft

Is Atlantic Star The Solution To St Helena Airport Wind Shear?

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Final approach on the southern end of the airport, the Avro RJ100 preparing to land at runway 02 at St Helena. The Atlantic Star Airlines demonstrating the aircraft's capabilities.

Final approach on the southern end of the airport, the Avro RJ100 preparing to land at runway 02 at St Helena. The Atlantic Star Airlines demonstrating the aircraft’s capabilities.

AIR TRAVEL IS AT ST HELENA’S DOOR | Darrin Henry

Islanders on St Helena starved of information for more than six months concerning the fate of air access, saw despair brushed aside by the heroic, entrepreneurial spirit of Atlantic Star’s commercial airline ambition, when they coolly landed an AVRO RJ100 jet plane at the island’s much maligned airport.

Flying A Big Jet Into St Helena

The four-engine, British made aircraft designed for short take-off and landing operations completed the 700 mile, two hour flight from Ascension Island, landing first time on runway 02, the southern approach with a tail wind of approx 6 knots. The flight is actually being operated by Tronos Aviation Leasing.  From the perspective of an untrained eye the landing looked as smooth as you could wish for, confirmed later by Atlantic Star Director, Richard Brown.

“It was pretty straight forward actually.  We got visual of the island about 10-15 miles out.  …then we had the opportunity to remain over the sea and we could just fly straight round onto the final for runway 02 and it was fine.  Nothing much really to say about it.”

Touchdown was at 15:51, Friday 21 October 2016, Atlantic Star's first flight into St Helena Airport on an Avro RJ100 jet, operated by Tronos Jet Maintenance. This flight made its own little piece of history being the first direct air connection between Ascension Island and St Helena.

Touchdown was at 15:51, Friday 21 October 2016, Atlantic Star’s first flight into St Helena Airport on an Avro RJ100 jet, operated by Tronos Aviation Leasing. This flight made its own little piece of history being the first direct air connection between Ascension Island and St Helena.

Fifteen minutes later, having disembarked most of the 13 non-commercial passengers, the aircraft taxied back out onto the runway, took off, circled round and this time landed from the opposite end, on runway 20, the northern approach which has been plagued by wind shear. In cross winds of approx 18 knots this was also completed without a problem.

“…we were completely on the published profile for the runway and it was fine.”

One witness became quite emotional as we looked on. I completely understood. The gloom that had descended around us over the last six months was suddenly lifted; the dream was on again it seemed.

Wheels on the ground and slowing down beneath the headland with Prosperous Bay House on top and King and Queen Rock. Touchdown was at 15:51, Friday 21 October 2016, Atlantic Star's first flight into St Helena Airport on an Avro RJ100 jet, operated by Tronos Jet Maintenance. This flight made its own little piece of history being the first direct air connection between Ascension Island and St Helena.

Wheels on the ground and slowing down beneath the headland with Prosperous Bay House on top and King and Queen Rock. Touchdown was at 15:51, Friday 21 October 2016, Atlantic Star’s first flight into St Helena Airport on an Avro RJ100 jet, operated by Tronos Aviation Leasing. This flight made its own little piece of history being the first direct air connection between Ascension Island and St Helena.

The Wind Shear Factor

A little over a year ago, islanders had finally dared to believe that air travel was possible when the first ever airplane landed at the brand new St Helena airport; a small, twin prop, Beechcraft King Air 200.

Be sure to check out our video of Atlantic Star's arrival flight at St Helena in the Avro RJ100. This is Sharon shooting the sequence as the aircraft makes its way back along the runway to the parking apron.

Be sure to check out our video of Atlantic Star’s arrival flight at St Helena in the Avro RJ100. This is Sharon shooting the sequence as the aircraft makes its way back along the runway to the parking apron.

Video of Atlantic Star Avro RJ100 landing on St Helena.

 

Six months later, barely a month before the official grand opening, a commercial aircraft test flight by a Comair operated British Airways 737-800, dramatically wobbled and bobbled on final approach before aborting the landing just a few feet from the runway. A second attempt was successful; however, the phenomenon of wind shear had raised its ugly head in front of an audience that reached around the world via YouTube.

Everything was put on hold as problem solving began. But islanders who had been urged for years to start businesses and prepare for the age of air travel and an influx of tourists have been left in the dark as to the progress of this problem solving. Wind data was being collected and analysed – that’s been it, just about.

Of course there have been plenty of rumours.

On the St Helena Airport viewing deck as the Avro RJ100, takes off to demonstrate its rapid climb capability and how it can land on runway 20. This visit was Atlantic Star's first flight to the island.

On the St Helena Airport viewing deck as the Avro RJ100, takes off to demonstrate its rapid climb capability and how it can land on runway 20. This visit was Atlantic Star’s first flight to the island.

Any suggestion the airport is not open is quickly quashed by the St Helena Government who insist it is indeed, open. However, when Saints and friends of St Helena voted, campaigned and even marched in London for air access, none of us envisioned an “open” airport to be one that none of us could afford to use.

So poor has been the flow of information that during a formal sitting of Legislative Council in July, Councillor, Lawson Henry, delivered a stinging criticism of the government’s failure to communicate honestly with elected members and thus the public. “The morale on the island could not be any worse,” said Mr Henry, in reference to the effects of poor information sharing.

Such has been the ongoing ramifications of wind shear.

But today, 21 October, 2016, hope is alive again following the successful arrival of Atlantic Star and the Avro RJ100 jet.

On the St Helena Airport viewing deck as the Avro RJ100, crawls into a parking position for the second time of the day having completed a quick circuit to demonstrate its take-off and landing capabilities on runway 20. This visit was Atlantic Star's first flight to the island.

On the St Helena Airport viewing deck as the Avro RJ100, crawls into a parking position for the second time of the day having completed a quick circuit to demonstrate its take-off and landing capabilities on runway 20. This visit was Atlantic Star’s first flight to the island.

Who Is Atlantic Star

In 2005 when Captain, Richard Brown, a British Airways pilot, heard about St Helena’s airport ambitions he was intrigued and spread a map on his kitchen table to learn more. The Atlantic Star adventure had begun.

Recruiting like-minded aviation and travel enthusiasts, a team was formed and the idea developed further.

Coffee and nachos in the St Helena airport cafe as we wait for the Atlantic Star press conference to begin. Very nice.

Coffee and nachos in the St Helena airport cafe as we wait for the Atlantic Star press conference to begin. Very nice.

Atlantic Star press conference begins in the airside departure lounge of St Helena Airport. Captain Richard Brown, CEO, on the far right making a presentation with Director Aiden Walsh alongside him.

Atlantic Star press conference begins in the airside departure lounge of St Helena Airport. Captain Richard Brown, CEO, on the far right making a presentation with Director Aiden Walsh alongside him.

In 2013, Director, Andrew Radford visited St Helena spreading a positive message about the company’s ambitions.

Atlantic Star went on to submit a bid to operate the scheduled air service from the island to Johannesburg but were unsuccessful, losing out to South African airline and British Airways’ franchisee, Comair.

Disappointed but still determined, Atlantic Star pushed on, partnering with TUIfly Airlines to ‘borrow’ a Boeing 737-800 and announcing a set of charter flights to St Helena, direct from UK, with a technical stop (refuelling) along the way. This direct option appealed to many Saints and a lot of bookings were made.

Whizzing through a few questions with Captain Richard Brown, CEO, of Atlantic Star Airlines. Time was tight as the team were in great demand for their 24 hour visit to St Helena.

Whizzing through a few questions with Captain Richard Brown, CEO, of Atlantic Star Airlines. Time was tight as the team were in great demand for their 24 hour visit to St Helena.

When the Comair, 737-800 test flight in April 2016 encountered severe wind shear, everyone’s plans were dashed, including Atlantic Star’s.

But they didn’t give up. Through contacts and business links, Atlantic Star seized on an opportunity to piggy-back on an Avro RJ100’s delivery flight from Europe to Chile and divert from the route for two days to come to St Helena.

Against all the odds this relentless team have boldly seized the initiative; they’re replaced six months of despondency with hope by parking a large white and red Avro RJ100 outside the airport terminal – twice!

The AVRO RJ100 Landing On St Helena

Two very experienced captains from Atlantic Airways (yes, a similar name) based in the Faroe Islands were at the controls today: Captain, Hjalgrim Magnussen and in the role of first officer for this flight, Hans Christian Petersen. Both are natives of the Faroe Islands giving them a real empathy for St Helena’s isolation.

The quiet heroes of the day, the pilots, trying to keep a low profile at the Consulate Hotel. Captain Hjalgrim Magnussen (left) and First Officer, Hans Christian Petersen, both from the Faroe Islands and both with 12 years experience flying the Avro RJ100 in testing conditions.

The quiet heroes of the day, the pilots, trying to keep a low profile at the Consulate Hotel. Captain Hjalgrim Magnussen (left) and First Officer, Hans Christian Petersen, both from the Faroe Islands and both with 12 years experience flying the Avro RJ100 in testing conditions.

Final approach on the southern end of the airport, the Avro RJ100 preparing to land at runway 02 at St Helena. The Atlantic Star Airlines demonstrating the aircraft's capabilities.

Final approach on the southern end of the airport, the Avro RJ100 preparing to land at runway 02 at St Helena. The Atlantic Star Airlines demonstrating the aircraft’s capabilities.

Captain Magnussen told me although they did notice wind shear today it wasn’t much, it would need to be “more windy conditions” to compare to what they experience back home.

“If you have an airline that is set up for ‘normal’ conditions then they will have criteria that they will have to adhere to which will make the operation into a special place like St Helena a problem for them,” said Captain Magnussen.

He went on to explain that, like the Faroe Islands, St Helena’s airport requires specialist pilots used to flying in windy conditions. “They will be more adaptable, and it would be easier for them to get an operation up and running into a place like St Helena.”

I asked: Would you be confident that, with that type of plane it is possible to provide a good air service.

“Yes, absolutely.”

Atlantic Star Airlines presentation and public Q&A session at the Consulate Hotel that evening.

Atlantic Star Airlines presentation and public Q&A session at the Consulate Hotel that evening.

I also asked Richard Brown about the stopping distance of the Avro RJ100, as it travelled the length of the runway before turning around, albeit at a continually slowing pace.

“I think the rule breaking distance we calculated was 780 metres, against 1550.”

He compared their stop to how we stop a car at a junction, gradually rather than hammering the brakes.

“We feathered the brakes. We could have stopped much quicker than we did, but why would you heat the brakes up that way?  So the raw distance was 780 metres, it would be more than that with 50 passengers on board.  But bear in mind the aircraft weighs about 20 tons empty.”

Richard ran through a few rough calculations demonstrating the tolerances were very good.

“That’s why this aircraft is great for this.  It’s small, it’s rugged, it’s got great braking. It’s got everything you need for this mission.”

What Happens Next?

This particular Avro aircraft is actually being delivered to a buyer in Chile, South America. The owner, Adrian Noskwith, was enthused by the idea of the St Helena project and has supported this little excursion.

At a public meeting at the Consulate Hotel tonight, the visiting team were greeted with applause from a large crowd who came to hear them speak and answer questions.

Owner of the Avro RJ100, Adrian Noskwith, Tronos Aviation Leasing, who played a big part in making the flight to St Helena possible. He owns two more of the jets which could be made available as early as spring 2017 for operating a service from St Helena, if required!

Owner of the Avro RJ100, Adrian Noskwith, Tronos Aviation Leasing, who played a big part in making the flight to St Helena possible. He owns two more of the jets which could be made available as early as spring 2017 for operating a service from St Helena, if required!

Although the flight was able to come via Wideawake Airfield on Ascension Island, permission was a one-off affair; despite being a British island, the runway is an American military facility and not open to scheduled commercial operations.

Atlantic Star reported an enthusiastic welcome and superb assistance from everyone on Ascension, including from the Americans. However, if our neighbouring island is to become a hub as part of St Helena’s air access solution, a more permanent agreement needs to be reached soon.

In terms of a service schedule, Atlantic Star’s initial proposal is to establish a twice weekly shuttle flight to Ascension Island, carrying approximately 50 of the Avro’s 100 passenger capacity. This reduced number allows good safe margins landing at St Helena in tail winds up to 15 knots. The idea is for connections to be made with the RAF passenger flights to the UK.

Former CEO of Atlantic Airways in the Faroe Islands, Magni Arge, with a few words of inspiration to the crowd at the Consulate Hotel.

Former CEO of Atlantic Airways in the Faroe Islands, Magni Arge, with a few words of inspiration to the crowd at the Consulate Hotel.

This is just a starting point; there would be plenty of scope to then develop the service with more frequent flights and also acquiring a second, modified aircraft for longer range links to both Cape Town and Johannesburg. Increased flights mean more efficient use of the aircraft.

The aircraft would be based on St Helena and therefore available as a 24/7 medevac option if required.

If the go-ahead was given today, Atlantic Star says they could be operational by the (northern hemisphere) spring.

I asked about fares, but the team were reluctant to give a figure at this moment, except to say prices will match market expectations. A multitude of factors make it impossible to nail down a figure this far out.

There is a clear buzz of excitement with people for the first time since that ‘wind shear day’ in April. The demonstration of commitment from Atlantic Star to provide an air service to St Helena has been extremely impressive.

Atlantic Star's arrival flight at St Helena Airport in the Avro RJ100 seen here taxiing onto the parking apron at the end of the flight from Ascension Island.

Atlantic Star’s arrival flight at St Helena Airport in the Avro RJ100 seen here taxiing onto the parking apron at the end of the flight from Ascension Island.

Who Is Paying For The Atlantic Star Flight?

Last week, via email, Atlantic Star had agreed to my request to photograph the interior of the aircraft for our blog. I was excited. But with a couple of days to go, SHG stepped in to put a stop to this on the grounds of security. They had decided, however, they would go on board to take pictures themselves for distribution to the press.

This exertion of control led me to assume SHG had financed the flight. Reporter’s due diligence and all, I asked Richard Brown how much SHG had contributed to the visit.

“Nothing, not a penny,” was the surprising reply.  “Not a single penny.  We’ve paid full price for the fuel.  We haven’t had to pay immigration fees because we’re all crew.  But no, it’s completely unsupported… most of it is Adrian. This is us doing it off our own back.”

When Does Air Travel Start For St Helena?

So, the St Helena Airport has reached another juncture in its short but eventful life.  There is renewed hope. Seeing really is believing and today the whole island saw possibilities again.

St Helena has been treated to the visit of proactive, aviation enthusiasts, infectious with their belief. These guys have laid their cards on the table – put their money where their mouth is.

It would be really helpful to know if there are any other comparable solutions being considered.

Richard Brown and his Atlantic Star dream have been knocking on St Helena’s door for 11 years now. Is anyone else knocking? Is anyone going to open the door?

I hope it’s not too long before we learn the answers.

St Helena Airport already in darkness after Atlantic Star Airlines arrival. Many members of the public came out in the late afternoon to view the aircraft from the viewing platform.

St Helena Airport already in darkness after Atlantic Star Airlines arrival. Many members of the public came out in the late afternoon to view the aircraft from the viewing platform.

Posted in International, Local, News, Regional, TOURISM, Travel0 Comments

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Neighbouring Guadeloupe Tourists enjoy Montserrat

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A quickly publicized day excursion from Guadeloupe is reported as an indication of the appeal Montserrat has as an intriguing, mysterious destination, even for its neighbors.

WEF_8882A ZJB report says that tourism officials, taxi and tour operators, arts and craft vendors and the small business community here last Saturday welcomed the maiden voyage of the Jean paradise Ferry to Montserrat.

Leisure tours as well as historic sites and the traditional foods that were on offer, as is customary the viewing of the Soufriere Hills Volcano, Scriber’s Adventure Tours and the unique Montserratian hospitality were some of the attractions that caught the interest of the tourists.

A report from the Department of Tourism says: “It also shows that we need not look only to anglophone Caribbean for day visitors. From the time they approached Plymouth, the Guadeloupeans with cameras held to their eyes were engaged. The disembarking was not entirely smooth as the plan to dock at Plymouth was made at the last minute, but thank goodness they did. Their two-hour trip was immediately rewarded at the sight of Town.

WEF_8911“Not only had Immigration made sure that documentation was filled out and forwarded in advance, so our near 450 visitors need not wait, but francophones residing on-island – expatriates like our many French Canadians, our European volunteers and resident Haitians – ensured that communication was not a barrier. It was a beautiful thing to witness their efforts made to ensure that this visit would be a success, and be the first of many for the year. Our francophones rallied to our call – at the MVO, at UWI’s cultural exchange, and on our island tours. As Aqua Montserrat’s clever T-shirts read: “Keep Calm and Parle Français”.

“Montserratians also got to see that our tourists come in different complexions, and still spend and appreciate the landscape, art, and food. Goat water was a hit, at People’s Place and the National Trust. Our tour operators who came out, RTT, Scriber’s Adventures, Namcas and Runaway Travel, all had a piece of the pie and were able to spread it around.

“We look forward to welcoming the Guadeloupeans at Little Bay next time and to up the ante on this wonderful, heartwarming experience.

While on Montserrat Jean Paradise Tours and RTT travel and Tours arranged several events from the visitors ranging from excursion with local guides, volcano viewing, bus tours and biking activities, meantime Ronda Boatswain owner of RTT Travel and Tours catered to approximately 140 of the more than 400 tourists. Miss Boatswain was excited about what the trip did for Montserrat.

The plan is to discover another place you know, every day we are going to Dominica, further France, Mari…., Today is the first time you know, our goal is to offer a new trip for our customers.

 

Visit our Facebook page here for more pics: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152851936055852.1073742022.203080105851&type=3

Posted in Featured, Local, News, TOURISM26 Comments


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