With hordes of people trying to leave the Islands after Hurricane Ivan, Director General of Civil Aviation Paul Henry Richard Smith faced unique challenges. But true to his nature he literally left no stone unturned in getting Cayman back on the move.
‘The recovery of air service is vital in the aftermath of a disaster and my first thought after the storm was to get out there and inspect the runway. Of biggest concern was the large amount of rocks that had been washed onto the east end of the runway. We couldn’t use heavy equipment in case it would damage the surface, so I rallied air traffic controller Troy McCoy and we cleared every single rock by hand.’
Dedicating his award to the staff of the Civil Aviation and the Airport authorities, Mr. Smith said he was still amazed by the spirit with which employees worked to restore full services to the airport.
‘In the first six days we handled more than 10,000 people under less than ideal circumstances. Many staff lost their homes and had to sleep in makeshift shelters at the airport. Nevertheless they came in every day, working diligently to get the airport up and running.’
Mr. Smith’s career in aviation began in 1976 when he enrolled in the Civil Aviation Department as a trainee air traffic controller. In 1988 he earned his commercial pilot’s license and flew Boeing 737s for Cayman Airways. Going on to gain experience in all areas of the aviation industry, Mr. Smith’s formal training included airport operations management, aircraft accident investigation and airport development planning.
In 1995 he was appointed Director of Civil Aviation for the Cayman Islands as well as Chairman of the Evacuation Committee. Most recently he was appointed to the board of directors of Air Safety Support International, a subsidiary of the UK Civil Aviation Authority charged with aviation oversight for the British Overseas Territories. He was also inducted as a Fellow into the Royal Aeronautical Society in November 2004.