March 10, 2009
By Sarah Brown
The radio silence that has frustrated pilots in Bahamas airspace since Hurricane Wilma knocked out the area’s Remote Communication Outlets (RCOs) in 2006 has finally lifted.
AOPA has been urging Bahamas officials to restore the RCO system to operational status since shortly after the storm, which caused damage to airports and RCOs throughout the islands. The damage had cut off pilots from communication with flight service stations (FSS) for flight planning activation or cancellation. Radio contact has now been restored, meaning safer flying for pilots in the area.
“AOPA has been working for two years to see RCO services reinstated throughout the islands,” said Woody Cahall, AOPA vice president of pilot information. “We are happy to know that pilots will now have reliable communication with FSS and will no longer be in the potentially hazardous situation of flying without access to critical information while airborne.”
Representatives of AOPA, assisted by Rick Gardner of Caribbean Sky Tours, traveled to the Bahamas in January 2007 to investigate member reports of post-hurricane conditions in the Bahamas, including radio communications difficulties. Finding it virtually impossible to contact Nassau FSS, AOPA petitioned the Bahamas Aviation Council to repair the system of RCOs that should relay radio signals between remote areas and the FSS. Over the next two years, AOPA continued to express its concern over the safety of pilots without reliable communication on the islands.
Cahall said the repairs were made possible through the work of Capt. Patrick Rolle, the country’s new director of civil aviation, and the continued efforts of Keith Gomez, aviation manager of the Bahamas Tourist Office.
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