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Chalk's Airways: Mixed Signals
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Posted by:Aug 9th 2006, 12:26:30 pm
Fig Tree News TeamAugust 09, 2006 – 08:18
Mixed Signals In Chalk's Matter
Company's plans to resume service later in the week was rebuffed by a declaration from Bahamian civil aviation officials that the airline was not authorized to fly.

One of the executives in charge of local operations at Chalk's International Airlines declined to comment further yesterday on the company's plans to resume service later in the week which was rebuffed by a declaration from Bahamian civil aviation officials that the airline was not authorized to fly.

However, according to Roger Nair, Chalk’s general manager, the airline plans to stay in business despite the horrific crash in December 2005 that resulted in the deaths of everyone aboard what National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) inspectors found may have been a poorly maintained aircraft.

Mr. Nair explained that Chalk’s has leased a twin-engine, 19-passenger Beech 1900D from Big Sky Airlines and plans to operate one round trip daily from Florida to Bimini and another from Florida to Nassau, according to one press report.

However, local officials said otherwise about the airline resuming service this week.

"Chalk’s International Airlines, doing business as Chalk’s Ocean Airways (Chalk’s), has not been authorized by the Department of Civil Aviation to commence flight operations to The Bahamas," according to a release issued on Tuesday from the Civil Aviation Department.

Bahamas based airline executive Indira Wright declined to comment further.

The initial plan involved the airline supposedly flying on Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays, and according to Mr. Nair, generating enough cash to increase operations and resume flying its four remaining Grumman Mallard seaplanes once the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) tells the company what it needs to do to ensure they are airworthy.

The Director of the Bahamas Civil Aviation Department Cyril Saunders was unavailable for comment on Tuesday. However, authorities have pointed to the fact that a fitness review being conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board in the U.S. is incomplete.

Mr. Nair said the company has stayed afloat by laying off 69 of 87 employees and operating with cash provided by owner James Confalone.

The majority of the victims of that Chalk’s Flight 101 crash on December 19 were Bimini residents, three of them infants. The wing separated from the fuselage of the plane, a Grumman Mallard, shortly after the plane took off from Miami.

The NTSB investigation, which is ongoing, has so far revealed that both wings on the 58-year-old seaplane had fatigue cracks in the metal, and that at least three pilots were concerned enough about the airline’s maintenance practices to resign.

Investigations by the NTSB and an intervention by the FAA have cast long shadows over the maintenance record of the airline, and one Miami attorney representing six of the victims said he didn’t think people would have enough confidence to fly Chalks even with the new land-based plane.

The FAA grounded the remaining four Grumman Mallard seaplanes in the airline’s fleet, as well as the other 33 operating in the United States, two weeks later. FAA spokesman Les Dorr has apparently said that the order remains in effect because the agency has yet to approve a detailed inspection procedure.

By: Quincy Parker, The Bahama Journal

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