PM says historic night flight signals new hope for socio-economic development

ROSEAU, Dominica, CMC – The Dominica government says the decision to introduce night landing at the Melville Hall airport more than 40 years after the facility was opened will make the island more attractive to regional and international foreign investors.

“We the cabinet was convinced that we were doing the right thing in the interest of the Dominican people. Our efforts and fortitude were rewarded as we were able to secure successive inputs of grants. Sacrifices had to be made to get us to this point,” said Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who was among passengers on the inaugural flight on Monday night.

“I am encouraged that now that this is a reality we will see improvements in Dominica’s rating for doing business to complement the progress we have made in reforming our customs, improving operations at the registry and modernizing land transfer to name a few,” he told hundreds of cheering nationals soon after the regional airline, LIAT touched down at the airport, north of here.

“Tonight will go down in history. This is an achievement of which we can all be proud,” Skerrit said.

The pilot, Captain Paul da Silva said “it was quite a nice approach landing here for the inaugural night landing” adding that the commercial operations at Melville Hall would depend on the “approval of the instrument approach.

“For us to go into a commercial operation, we need to get the instrument approach approved. Once we can get the instrument approach approved by the authorities we will be able to start full night operations here. Everything is really in good order.

“We just have to wait for the instrument approach to be approved and then we can start scheduling regular flights into Dominica,” he said.

Apart from LIAT, the Netherlands-based Windward Islands Airways (Winair) also landed at the airport.

Prime Minister Skerrit said that the EC$160 million (US$59.2 million) facility represented his administration’s commitment to taking forward the island’s development.

Skerrit defended the decision to shelve plans for the construction of an international airport and said his government would now endeavor to further improve the facility to accommodate international flights.

“What was required of this government was to turn its back on fiscal irresponsibility and pie in the sky schemes and to adopt a pragmatic approach to improving Dominica’s air access in a manner that would not impose further debt on the backs of the people,” he said, adding “can you imagine the state Dominican could have been in today had we gone about building an international airport in the manner proposed by the opposition.

“We have met our immediate to medium term objective to improving air access. One long term goal is to level the playing field for better air access into Dominica by establishing the capacity to accommodate flights originating from international destinations. I emphasize that we do not intend to do so at additional cost to the treasury and people of Dominica,” Skerrit said.

Ports Minister Rayburn Blackmoore said the advent of night landing represented several developmental opportunities for Dominica.

“For too long in our history we have been impeded; impeded in our trade; impeded in our overall development as a people. …now is the time, now is the moment to embrace the opportunity to demonstrate that we can strive together as a people in one collective endeavour.

“Think about the possibilities that exist in trade expansion. Think about the possibilities that exist in our tourism product development. Think about the possibilities that exist for the overnight and tourism sector. Think about the possibilities that exist for the diving sector; the opportunity to move forward,” he said.

Blackmoore said that within the next six months the facility would be ready to meet requirements for the landing of larger aircraft. He said among the works to be carried out include the covering of exposed storm drains and the strengthening of the top soil adjacent to the runway.

“We are now therefore at a Class Two which means that the LIAT Dash 8 aircraft and the smaller aircraft can land here at night. We are striving as we seek to move forward to the next level, to get to the Class Three category. This means that aircraft like 737’s will be able to land in Dominica once we meet certain standards within the next six months,” Blackmoore said.

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