General aviation terminal one of a kind

During the early 1990s,
Meteorological Services of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority was expanded
to accommodate the private aircraft terminal.

Cayman Islands General Aviation
Terminal handled more than 5,000 passengers during 2009, both inbound and outbound.
Jim Parker of Caribbean Flying Adventures, an organisation that publishes an
exhaustive guide to the Caribbean for private plane owners, said that the
facilities at the General Aviation are reasonable for a destination of this
size.

“The waiting room’s completely
adequate, there’s a private little waiting room there as well. It’s functional,
it’s adequate and it works – the counter’s right there for any questions,” he
said.

The waiting area is carpeted and
has four chairs around a table that holds magazines. There is a television and
a viewing window out to the apron where private planes are parked. Also within
this area there is a small branch of Tortuga, where duty free goods can be
bought.

At any one time, approximately two
dozen passengers can be accommodated in the customs and immigration sections.

Mr. Parker, who has been to every
island in the Caribbean, said that a General Aviation Terminal is the exception
rather than the rule in this region.

“Frankly there are not that many
islands with private facilities or facilities that cater for private aircraft.
Mostly you just show up at the airport, take care of yourself and figure out a
way of getting out of the airport and back in and submitting your flight plan,”
he added.

Organised

Fixed-base operations, that is
ground handling services for private and chartered aircraft, are handled by
Island Air as well as Cayman Airways and Air Agencies on a more limited basis.

Island Air operates between 7am and
7pm. Immigration and customs at the General Aviation Terminal are open from 7am
to 9pm although on arrangement special permission can be granted for
out-of-hours use.

Expediency

Mr. Parker said the General
Aviation Terminal at Cayman is one of the better-organised of the Caribbean’s
small airports.

“The bottom line is expediency.
When the plane lands they want to get their passengers off the plane and
through the airport so they can start having a good time as quickly as
possible.

“Cayman is right there in the top
two or three in terms of being hassle-free; you land, get your immigration card
and passport stamped and you’re pretty much done with it because Island Air
takes care of all the details and the paperwork,” he noted.

Key elements of the experience were
that landing fees and required paperwork were constant in comparison with other
destinations, said Mr. Parker.

“Everything is very
straightforward. You know exactly what the fees schedule is – what you pay for
landing, what you pay for handling, what you pay for parking. So there are no
surprises. That’s a very big point for pilots who go into Dominican Republic
for example and it might be different every single time they go in, in terms of
what the fees are and what the procedures are,” he added.

Mr. Parker also noted that
particularly for pilots coming from the United States, the fact that English is
spoken is an advantage that Cayman has over other airports. In comparison to
other small airports in the Caribbean, refuelling is a simple process that can
be done on the spot or by prior arrangement with Island Air.

The building

Customs and Border Control
(immigration) are both housed within the building as is an airport security
officer. Pilots file their flight plans at Aeronautical Information Services, a
counter area with bank teller-like windows.

The rest of the building is
occupied by Meteorological Services of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority,
which can advise on weather conditions. On 1 June, 2010, Cayman Islands
Airports Authority and the Meteorological Services split formally and the
latter will be known as the National Weather Service.

The total square footage of the
building that encompasses Meteorological Services and Aeronautical Information
Services offices is 3,763 square feet.

Stats

During 2009, there were 2,081
movements of domestic aircraft and 3,445 international movements through the
General Aviation Terminal. These statistics are a combination of inbound and
outbound flights and total 5,526.

Ivan

According to a report by the
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, during Ivan three
private planes were destroyed by the winds, a total estimated value of
$1,950,000. Damages to the General Aviation terminal were mostly cosmetic and
included shingles ripped off by high winds with ceilings damaged as a result.

Recent refurbishments

The building was refurbished in
2003 and again in 2005 post-Ivan.

The most recent refurbishment was
undertaken in late 2009 and included replacement of roof shingles and lighting
fixtures; new gutters; installation of base boards and crown moulding;
carpeting and reupholstery; and replacement of ceiling fan; painting of
interior and exterior and the addition of entry portico on the landside and
landscaping.

For more Cayman’s tourism industry
visit: Compass
Point: The Future of Tourism

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The General Aviation Terminal has undergone extensive renovations in recent years.
Photo: File
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