The Governor of Montserrat, His Excellecy, Andrew Pearce, has provided a response to MNI Media to a piece published last week by MNI Contributor, William "Bubbles" Galloway regarding the safety of operations at the John A. Osborne Airport.
See the Governor's Letter below in full:
Aviation Safety in Montserrat
Mr William Galloway wrote what he termed an “open letter” to me in last week’s edition of MNI Alive about his concerns over aspects of aviation security in Montserrat.
It is normally best for individuals with concerns and questions to address them directly to those responsible rather than via the media. But aviation safety has generated some debate in our community and some of the questions raised may be of wider interest so exceptionally in this instance I will attempt to answer them in this reply through MNI Alive.
Responsibility for air safety in Montserrat rests in its detail with Air Safety Support International (ASSI). This is a special UK organization formed to provide advice and support in aviation safety matters and regulation for UK territories. They are the experts. The Governor’s role is to ensure that the system for provision and implementation of air safety rules works effectively. I do not myself decide air safety policies. I happen to have been a Royal Air Force pilot but that was a long time ago and I have no relevant, current qualifications in air safety matters.
As I made clear in press conferences and press statements at the time and since, the accident in September at our airport has been investigated thoroughly by the Air Accident Investigation Branch, which is an independent body set up to ensure rigorous investigation of any accidents and incidents involving aircraft in UK jurisdictions. They will complete and issue their report shortly. Once we have it, we will need to consider carefully with ASSI and all concerned whether our safety regime needs to be further adjusted.
Pending that final investigation report, precautionary measures have been taken to safeguard passenger safety. These include certain operational adjustments agreed with the airlines.
They also include a restriction on landings on what is termed a “wet” runway. At the time of the accident the runway was wet. Therefore as a precaution pending the outcome of the UK investigation such a restriction was implemented as a reasonable, additional safety measure given that surface water on a runway increases the stopping distances for aircraft. The definition of “wet” is a technical one, guided by aviation experts. It does not mean just damp.
That restriction and the technical judgement involved are the responsibility of ASSI, the guardians of air safety for Montserrat. They are not arbitrary or amateur ideas. They are important, professional judgements aimed at keeping all our residents and visitors safe.
As always with safety and security matters, there can be some additional costs or complexities involved. But I think we would all put the price of our and our fellows’ lives above the loss of a night or two of tourist revenue. I would.
If Mr Galloway or others wish to question this expert advice further, they should write to the Airport Authority here, or to ASSI, not to a newspaper and not (at least in the first instance) to me.
Mr Galloway’s letter asks some reasonable questions, which I hope this reply addresses. It would have been better without the intimations that I would put my own and my family’s safety above that of others in our community; and that some alleged “closeness” with Fly Montserrat influences my judgement. Both are groundless nonsense.
Governor of Montserrat