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Howai: CAL planes safe

'No risk on London route'

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

Though lacking a GPS system, the 767 aircraft used by Caribbean Airlines to fly to London/Gatwick are suitable because they fulfilled the requirement of having a flight route which ensures the aircraft is no more than 120 minutes away from a suitable airport, Finance Minister Larry Howai stated.

Responding to a question in the Senate Monday, Howai said the airports that are on route and that are less than or 120 minutes from the flight plan are: Bermuda, Shannon/Dublin Airports (Ireland), Santa Maria and Lajes Airports (Azores) and all the major airports along the Eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada.

Howai said CAL had indicated that although the aircraft is not yet equipped with the GPS system, the Standalone INS which is the Inertial Navigation System is currently installed and is being used by the aircraft. He said the Standalone INS was used for over 20 years by BWIA in their L1011 aircraft, which operated the London and European routes without any errors caused by the navigation system.

Howai said ASCEND, an international Aviation Data/Statistics Expert Company, was engaged by CAL to provide an evaluation of the wide-body aircraft and had advised that the aircraft used by CAL was suitable.

However as part of their evaluation, ASCEND indicated that "since the POS-LGW route will involve flying across the Atlantic Ocean, an important specification for the selected aircraft would be Extended Twin Engine Operations (ETOPS) certification". Howai said ETOPS enables an aircraft to fly a route with the nearest diversion airport being up to 240 minutes away in some cases.

Howai said it should be noted that in March 1989 the FAA approved the B767 as the first jetliner for 180-minute extended operations (ETOPS) well before GPS came into common use. "This endorsement by the FAA weighed positively on the TTCAA's approval of the aircraft," he said.

Howai said CAL had received approval for 120 minutes ETOPs from the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority and it expected to receive 180 minutes (ETOPS) after six months of operation. He said this was in keeping with the TTCAA's policy of allowing such the aircraft to operate at the more restrictive limit of 120 minutes and a period of successful operations, relaxing this to 180 minutes, which is the maximum that the Boeing would allow.

Howai said approval to operate the POS/London Gatwick route had been received by CAL from the TTCAA (on September 28, 2012) and the UK Authority (on October 23, 2012).

"The chairman of CAL (Rabindbra Moonan) has stated that the issue of risk does not arise. There is no risk. The system in which CAL operates has been tried, tested and proven for the last 40 years regarding transatlantic flights," Howai stated.

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