The horrific events of September 11, 2001, changed the face of civil aviation around the globe. And, as this vital sector remains under the microscope, local practitioners are working assiduously?? to?? ensure?? that?? the?? Barbados???? product??remains on the cutting edge.

With?? membership?? in?? the?? International?? Civil Aviation?? Organisation (ICAO), ??dating back to?? the 1960s,?? Barbados remains committed?? to meeting and, where possible, surpassing international obligations?? with respect to safety oversight.

Speaking?? ahead of a week of activities to mark?? International?? Civil Aviation Day, which will be observed tomorrow, Tuesday, December 7, Minister of?? International?? Transport, George Hutson,?? signalled?? Cabinet’s?? approval of?? a number of?? amendments to the island’s regulatory framework. These, he indicated, are in keeping with ICAO stipulations, and are aimed at positioning Barbados to acquire Category 1 (Cat 1) Status with the USA’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

??The rating, which would automatically place Barbados in the big leagues of civil aviation, would, among other things, allow the country to have a registered Barbadian airline operating into the United States.

"From these measures you can see that Government is serious about???? positioning Grantley Adams International Airport Inc (GAIA) as a hub for passenger and cargo distribution. To achieve this objective, we must review our competitiveness and ensure adequate management of inward and outward passenger flows through existing facilities.

"It is for this reason, therefore, that Government will pursue the policies necessary to ensure the viability and sustainability of the aviation sector. My task is to raise the profile of the Civil?? Aviation sector,?? as we set?? the standards for which Barbados?? is known in the Caribbean and further afield", the Minister maintained.

Having chosen the theme Beyond Air Travel, Building our Economy ??for the?? celebratory week of activities, ??Minister?? Hutson said it was an apt one, given?? the?? current economic climate

Describing?? airports as "major drivers of economic activity,"?? the Minister?? pointed out the ICAO?? estimated that civil aviation contributed some US $370 billion and six million jobs to the world economy.

"At the national level, civil?? aviation has contributed?? significantly?? to economic growth, particularly in the areas of tourism and international business, increased airlift capacity?? and airport expansion in the region. ??It has much more to contribute,"?? he surmised, adding that?? Barbados’ sound infrastructure?? and framework?? contributed significantly?? to prosperity and?? the creation of?? opportunities?? for employment, business, commerce and?? the tourism industry.

With more than one million visitors passing through the GAIA?? "in either direction each year," Minister Hutson reported Aviation also provided?? the benefits of indirect employment?? in myriad areas, with over 3, 500 persons currently employed at the GAIA, probably making it one of the island’s biggest?? single employment entities.

Against this backdrop, the International Transport head disclosed his Ministry continually sought to improve and enhance?? the facilities at the Airport in order to ??facilitate the demands of present day international travel.?? Having extended the check-in area last year, Mr. Hutson confirmed an additional aircraft taxiway was currently being prepared, and was expected to be finished during the first quarter of next year.

Additionally, he noted that?? the new Airport Fire Station was completed?? and operational, thus?? providing direct access from the facility to the runway. Airfield lighting and signage, the International Transport Minister added, were also being upgraded.

In terms of security, Minister Hutson reported some success?? with regard to?? an ongoing 18-month project aimed at strengthening airport security and enhancing training.

"I am pleased to say that this project has gone well and the consultant, International Security Defense Systems, has already completed its work. Almost 250 persons who were selected from organisations, agencies, companies and government departments, have been trained in modern technologies and new security systems. New equipment and systems procedures have been implemented," he?? revealed.

With some attention also being paid?? to?? a review of the institutional framework governing civil aviation,?? the?? man behind the?? state’s administrative and regulatory arm, Director of Civil Aviation,?? Tony Archer, is quietly?? confident that?? the attainment of?? Cat 1 status is well within the island’s reach.

So,?? as?? Government’s?? Civil Aviation Department and?? the GAIA throw open their doors this week, to give Barbadians a glimpse into this key sector,?? officials have pledged to continue to work in tandem with regional and international concerns, to ensure?? its?? continued success?? in terms of safety, security and efficiency.??????

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