Bahamas strike landmark airspace deal

The Bahamas has reached a landmark agreement with the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to regain control of its airspace.
“Considerable progress is now being made on proposed new arrangements for the management of our airspace, including plans to approach the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for formal recognition of an expanded Bahamian FIR (Flight Information Region), which would have economic benefit to The Bahamas and will be in the mutual interests of both countries, with respect to aviation safety and security,” Bahamian prime minister Perry Christie told a recent press conference.
Discussions between the FAA and representatives of the Bahamian government, over the management and control of the upper levels of the Bahamas’ airspace began in earnest with the first round of talks held in 2014 and the latest meeting taking place in Miami in mid December.
The premier noted that although The Bahamas gained sovereignty over its geographical airspace when it gained Independence in 1973, the FAA has continued to manage and control this airspace as part of its Flight Information Region, under arrangements which predate independence.
“It is expected that a final agreement will be soon reached to govern the terms and conditions of the FAA’s management of Bahamian airspace, initially for a period of 10 years,” Christie added. “It is expected the agreement will provide for the first time for the collection of overflight fees by The Bahamas, from aircraft transiting Bahamian airspace.”
The FAA will be paid for providing air traffic management services during this period, he stated.
“The overflight fees will be set by the Bahamas Government and collected from transiting aircraft in accordance with the economic guidelines issued by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),” Christie added. “It is also anticipated that the agreement will include technical assistance and training for The Bahamas, as it seeks to further develop its air traffic management capacity and enhance the aviation sector in general.”
Christie stated that, as indicated, an important aspect of those discussions was the steps currently underway by The Bahamas Government for the formal recognition by ICAO and neighbouring states of an expanded FIR largely corresponding to The Bahamas’ maritime borders. The FAA has indicated an intention to work together with The Bahamas in that important endeavor, he added.
As part of the deal, all Bahamian aircraft operators will be exempt from paying overflight fees to the FAA on flights which take off and land in British Commonwealth nation.
Christie said that the exemption, which is expected to take effect in the very near future, will translate into significant savings for local aircraft operators, including Bahamasair.
“It is of interest to note that Bahamasair in the last three years alone has paid overflight fees in excess of $1 million,” Christie noted.”The effect of the exemption will also generally enhance the local aviation sector in The Bahamas.”