Wed | Oct 23, 2019

NMIA finally certified after 80 years - Kingston airport takes flight as new operators settle in cockpit

Published:Wednesday | October 9, 2019 | 12:12 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
Transport Minister Robert Montague (right) hands over the airport operators certification to Audley Deidrick, president of the Airports Authority of Jamaica and CEO of Norman Manley International Airport Limited. The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority, as regulators of Jamaica’s aviation industry, officially handed over the certificate at the offices of the Ministry of Transport and Mining in St Andrew yesterday.
Transport Minister Robert Montague (right) hands over the airport operators certification to Audley Deidrick, president of the Airports Authority of Jamaica and CEO of Norman Manley International Airport Limited. The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority, as regulators of Jamaica’s aviation industry, officially handed over the certificate at the offices of the Ministry of Transport and Mining in St Andrew yesterday.

After 80 years of it attaining an international standard and approximately one year after a multimillion-dollar crash-simulation exercise, the first of its kind in Jamaica, the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) is now certified for aerodrome operations.

The occasion signalled a big deal to stakeholders who gathered yesterday at the Ministry of Transport and Mining’s Maxfield Avenue offices in St Andrew for the certificate handover ceremony.

Audley Deidrick, president of the Airports Authority of Jamaica and CEO of NMIA Limited, said the certification came after many trials.

“There have been many stops and starts with this process. Several heads of operations have been changed ... but today, ... we have finally achieved the remarkable feat of certification of the NMIA under the guidance and leadership of Mr Dale Davis,” Deidrick said.

The airport handlers were especially pleased to be handing over the operations of the NMIA to the winners of the divestment process, PAC Kingston Airport Limited (PACKAL).

“We are at the doorsteps of the handing over of the NMIA to the winning bidders, PACKAL. We are even more pleased to be handing them a certified airport. We look forward to the new operators taking and keeping NMIA in a state of certification,” Deidrick added.

Transport Minister Robert Montague was equally filled with pride.

“We have been waiting 80 years for this moment. Today is a day of celebration,” he said yesterday. “It’s a big deal to be certified as a aerodrome operator. We have been pulling all the punches, and when I became minister, ... I told the chairman and president that this is one of the boxes that we have to check.”

According to Montague, aviation is on the upswing in Jamaica today.

“From what I am hearing, NMIA exceeded the standard in many of the areas that they were tested on. Sangster is already certified, and we are far advanced at Ian Fleming to get that done. We have operating certificates for a number of our aerodromes,” he said.

“For Jamaica to really benefit from the achievement and safety records, we have to expand general aviation. Expanding general aviation is not only about training pilots and having more private planes land in Jamaica. It’s about training more of our air traffic controllers or our instrument officers, training more mechanics and IT people in aviation because aviation is a growing industry and Jamaica has a solid brand name in aviation industry worldwide and we need to leverage that to the benefit of our people,” Montague added.

The current certification expires at midnight on October 3, 2020.

During his remarks, NMIA Airports Limited Chairman Newlyn Seaton said the airport has finally graduated.

“Since 1940, the civil aviation announced the certification of airports, meaning that there is a manual that has to be put in place to operate airports, safety of air travelling passengers. We have finally graduated and received this certification or degree for the safe operations of the airport October 4, 2019,” he said.

Seaton also emphasised that the accomplishment was no simple feat.

Rohan Campbell, deputy director general at the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA), said the certification was significant for local travellers, the country, citizens and all foreigners who travel or do business in Jamaica.

“The significance of certification means that Norman Manley International Airport meets – and in some cases exceeds – international benchmark standards for safety and security … . NMIA has assisted the country in gaining a positive reputation worldwide … . We have to maintain these standards to international levels so our domestic operations benefit from these services as Jamaica seeks to grow aviation,” Campbell said while filling in for JCAA Director General Nari Williams-Singh, who was overseas.

Meanwhile, the certification of the safety and security operations at the NMIA came two weeks short of a year since the airport conducted a multimillion-dollar crash-simulation exercise on October 18, 2018.

The exercise, centred on an aircraft crashing into the Kingston Harbour, was a collaboration of several entities, including NMIA response teams, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Jamaica Defence Force, the Ministry of Health, the Jamaica Fire Brigade, and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, among others.

According to Chief Operations Officer Dale Davis, the exercise was in keeping with international standards, which mandate such an exercise at major airports at least every two years.

“In an operational environment like ours, the aviation community is key to standardising the kind of response that would be made to an incident involving an aircraft, which could be very harmful to the reputation of the airport, and the State is responsible for management,” Davis said then.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com