Winward Islands Airways Ltd. (WINAIR) has temporarily halted scheduled charters to Montserrat as discussions are in progress on the airline’s compliance with international standards.
Desmond Meade, a representative of MACG, which has been promoting flights to and from Montserrat for the festival season, confirmed this on Wednesday afternoon.
“Right now, flights have been temporally suspended pending review with ASSI and WINAIR. There are no flights scheduled for today. MACG will review with WINAIR as consultation with ASSI continues.”
According to Meade, WINAIR has received communication from the British air safety regulator querying anomalies with an upcoming flight.
“We have tried to contact your aviation regulator as we see there are some anomalies with the Winair departure phase out of Montserrat. We understand that the Twin Otter is due to fly to Montserrat tomorrow, so it is vital, for the flight to go ahead, that these anomalies are addressed.
“Through the Governor’s Instruction we ask for a safety assessment and there is an assumption that the full and appropriate Performance Class criteria is adopted; in this case the Twin Otter is Performance Class A. As you are aware under Performance Class A no account is taken of reverse thrust at the planning stage though of course it can be used operationally. Also, it is not clear how the accelerate/stop distance is calculated.
“We have contacted your aviation regulator to verify your performance calculations. However, in the meantime, we require all operations to and from Montserrat to be conducted under strict Performance Class A criteria. Please demonstrate to your FOI how these calculations are determined so that we can gain assurance from him. As time is of the essence, we hope to receive contact shortly and anything you can do to expedite this process would be very helpful,” the letter to the Chief Pilot at WINAIR read.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Governor’s Office issued a release from ASSI which read:
“Air Safety Support International (ASSI) is seeking assurance from Winair’s Safety Regulator, St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority (SMCAA), that all flights entering and leaving Montserrat are being flown in accordance with the set international standards for aircraft performance.
“Using these standards helps to make sure aircraft have sufficient length of runway for take-off and landing based on their power and load. While these assurances are being sought it may, unfortunately, lead to some disruption to Winair flights. But, in all our actions, safety is our first priority, and this is a necessary action to make sure those using the services have the highest levels of safety.
“We are engaged with Winair to make sure its flights can resume as soon as possible as a safe operation that meets international standards,” the statement ended.
According to information received, the international regulations were changed in 2018 and required new weight restrictions based on the runway length.
The next scheduled WINAIR Charter is December 21.
Montserrat Carnival 2022 begins Saturday, December 17, 2022, and runs until January 2, 2023. Additional airlift has been a challenge as Montserrat no longer has a regular ferry service.