Mon | Nov 18, 2019

AJAS Shines for Obama

Published:Monday | April 13, 2015 | 12:00 AMBarbara Ellington
The two signed pictures of Air Force One that were presented to Jamaica Aviation Services team to commemorate the visit of President Barack Obama.
The air stairs and luggage carts are in place and all is ready for the arrival of the 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
Lokelsie Barnett, ramp supervisor and air stairs driver, stands proudly in front of Air Force One at the Norman Manley International Airport.
President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One before leaving Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Jamaica, Thursday, April 9.

The senior management and staff of All Jamaica Aviation Services (AJAS) are still basking in the satisfaction of a job well done. Teamwork, coordinated between the company's personnel from Montego Bay's Sangster and Kingston's Norman Manley International airports, perfectly executed aircraft-handling services for last week's visit of President Barack Obama's Air Force One and more than 22 other aircraft accompanying him to Jamaica over the 20-hour visit.

Under new management for the last two years, the 70-year-old AJAS ranks among the largest aircraft handling company in the English-speaking Caribbean, providing services for both scheduled and chartered air carriers at both national airports. According to head of security Colonel Norman Tomlinson, AJAS provides both passenger and cargo-handling services and is by far the largest cargo handler in Jamaica.

Tomlinson told The Gleaner that the company got three weeks to prepare for the presidential visit and being adequately staffed, there was no need to hire extra manpower for the historic occasion. He said AJAS is used to handling up to 30 aircraft daily during the busiest periods of the year, but to execute this assignment, they were asked for a number of items.




The list of ground support equipment requested by the Obama team included a forklift with a capacity of 10,000 pounds, passenger stairs, a ground power unit, air start unit, baggage conveyor belts, lavatory cart, potable water cart, a tractor, baggage carts, among other supplies. Tomlinson said the specialised equipment that they did not have in their inventory were sourced and provided for their VIP clients.

AJAS managed the needs of Air Force One, plus the COPA Airlines aircraft from the CARICOM region, which had flown the region's leaders to Jamaica. "We provided a dedicated team and equipment for Air Force One, even while we provided handling services for the aircraft from the CARICOM region," said Tomlinson, adding that there were also two additional planes parked at the Sangster International Airport in case of an emergency.

He noted that it is the norm for all passengers and top-level clients to be handled with safety and security, and that this was of paramount importance. "We ensured that we followed to the detail the instructions given and procedures laid down by the US security personnel in respect of the presidential flight," Tomlinson said.

As with assignments that require the utmost precision, there were 'dress rehearsals' for AJAS' equipment drivers and in particular passenger stairs drivers.

Although none of the AJAS team members had the privilege of meeting President Obama, they received a signed photograph of Air Force One by the captain, who expressed their appreciation for the support provided by AJAS.

"This is our second signed photo of Air Force One, the first was received in 1982 when President Ronald Reagan visited Jamaica."

For President Barack Obama's April 8-9 visit to Jamaica, All Jamaica Aviation Services (AJAS) were the handlers for the entire presidential flight and Lokelsie Barnett was the driver of the passenger stairs on which Obama descended to Jamaican soil.

AJAS' safety and compliance manager had high praise for Barnett saying: "Barnett, who parked the air stairs on Air Force One, deserves special commendation. The meticulous approach as well as the final positioning of the mobile stairs during such a tense moment was flawless."

And, Barnett said, "I really enjoyed the moment, I consider it a privilege to have been chosen to do such an important and noble task. My years of experience helped me to do this task. I have done this before ... not for a president's flight but other VIP flights. This, though, tops it all. I was very happy that it was done without any glitches and so I'm extremely happy about how things have turned out."

Barnett is a ramp supervisor and has been a valued member of team AJAS for 25 years. He received commendation and thanks for making the team proud for his professionalism on this very memorable occasion from the managing director.