Caribbean Air Rally fosters island GA opportunities, skills

February 26, 2013

Year 12 of the annual Governor General’s Cup 2013 Caribbean Air Rally, April 15 through 26, will feature an expanded list of islands on the itinerary. The rally gives general aviation pilots the chance to visit six Caribbean islands and test their navigation, flying, and safety skills, said rally president and lead organizer Catherine Tobenas.

The rally goes back to 2001, when it was put together as a local activity for Canada’s Quebec Bush Pilots Association, which has around 1,800 members, said Tobenas. “In 2003, it moved across locations in Canada, inviting media from Europe, Australia, China, and Japan,” she said.

In 2010, the rally was moved to cover the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. “Then in 2011, we added to St. Maarten and Martinique, and in 2012, we added Grenada,” said Tobenas. This year’s rally starts in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and stops in Turks and Caicos, Anguilla, Martinique, St. Kitts and Nevis, and the Dominican Republic. Aviation Connection, a nonprofit organization, sponsors the rally.

“The event is used to promote destinations in the region seen as travel spots and that are aviation friendly. It also is good for economic development in the region,” said Tobenas. “Each island serves as the local organizer for the event. They appoint a committee and they handle all activities, media, receptions, and cover fees for landing and parking.”

The event can handle up to 25 teams, but it usually ranges from 18 to 22 teams, said Tobenas. The team registration fee is $ 2,200 per person, double occupancy, while the aircraft registration is $405. The team fee includes room and breakfast, ground transportation, assistance with all departure procedures and eAPIS, flight and customs coordination and expedited clearance, and discounted activities organized by the local hosts.

The rally builds a great sense of camaraderie among the group, said Tobenas. “People should take part in the rally because there’s no way they can meet the locals the way we do,” she said. “We make it more affordable and safe for participants because of our collaboration with officials at the destinations.”

An important part of the program is that Aviation Connection seeks to attract younger pilots to the event and to general aviation, said Tobenas. To that end, the event matches three young instrument-rated pilots with mentors participating in the rally.

“They will be the pilot in command, and can earn up to 40 hours at no charge. The pilots are sponsored by Bombardier Aerospace,” said Tobenas. Pilot mentors for the 2013 rally are still needed, she added.