The abrupt closure of the 3,030-foot runway on Staniel Cay in the Bahamas took tour operators and locals by surprise, and Jim Parker—who runs Caribbean Flying Adventures—is spreading the word in hope of making the point that tourism will suffer, and encouraging the government to move more quickly to reopen the airport.
Parker, in a telephone interview with AOPA, said that while Staniel Cay is not an airport of entry, it is a popular destination in the Exuma chain and one of few Bahamas airports that has seen an increase in private aircraft use in recent years.
The Staniel Cay Yacht Club offers fine dining and accommodations a few steps away; the snorkeling is “spectacular,” Parker added, noting that a three-minute boat ride takes visitors to an island with underwater caves where scenes of the James Bond film Thunderball were shot. And, of course, there are the famous swimming pigs.
“They’ve done a great marketing job,” Parker said of his friends at the aforementioned yacht club. “They’re always completely booked.”
Since April 9, however, they’ve been noticing the loss of aviators who no longer have access to Staniel Cay Airport, the closure of which was announced by notam and little else.
"They're just losing all kinds of tourism revenues," said Parker, who recently urged customers to email various government officials seeking explanation and action to restore the airport. Parker said there has been no sign of construction activity on the field since it closed, and the pavement, while imperfect, was not, in his opinion, unsafe.
Emails sent to various Bahamas aviation officials seeking comment did not draw any immediate response.
Parker said that private aircraft travel to the Bahamas has declined in recent years thanks in no small part to regular fee increases. Parker said the Bahamas are in danger of losing out as other Caribbean destinations work to open private aircraft access.