New legal challenge to helipad in George Town; noise cited

Pilot plans return to capital, but more turbulence ahead

A helicopter pilot offering scenic flights to tourists aims to be back in George Town this month following a legal victory in his battle with neighboring businesses.  

But the row surrounding the downtown helipad does not appear to be over yet.  

A new court hearing is scheduled for May, with opponents of the venture turning their attention to the issue of noise nuisance in an effort to have planning permission overturned. 

Jerome Begot, owner of Cayman Islands Helicopters, said he was happy that a panel of Appeals Court judges had quashed a ruling that his helipad could be considered “unsafe,” describing it as a “logical decision.” 

But he said being out of the capital, with its ready access to a steady supply of cruise ship tourists, had hurt his business. 

“It has cost me a lot not being downtown. If you are selling ice cream at the cruise terminal and tomorrow you’re told you have to go to Frank Sound, you’re not going to make as much,” said Mr. Begot, who also offers flights from the airport. 

The Civil Aviation Authority suspended his airdrome license in George Town after the initial ruling, which followed a court challenge by Axis International, the owner of a property close to the helipad. 

But Mr. Begot is hopeful that his license will be restored within the next few weeks, following the successful appeal, which was brought by the CAA. 

How long he is allowed to remain in the capital could depend on the outcome of another court challenge, this time from another of his neighbors on the waterfront. 

Coastal Two, another business that owns property on the waterfront, is asking for a review of the Planning Appeals Tribunal’s decision not to hear its appeal against the Central Planning Authority’s decision to grant permission for the helipad in the first place. 

Coastal Two had complained about excessive noise from the helicopter, suggesting it made face-to-face and telephone conversations impossible inside its building and even caused the desks to vibrate. 

But the company did not file an appeal within the 14-day limit, and the Planning Appeals Tribunal rejected an application for an extension of time, allowed under the law in some cases. 

Coastal Two asked for a Judicial Review of that decision, and a court date has been set for May 20. 

Mr. Begot believes he has nothing to fear from the court challenge and said he was looking forward to being back in George Town again. 

“I would be very surprised if that came to anything. They were way out of time,” he said. 

“I didn’t do anything wrong. Everybody says it is a good business and people were very happy with us.”  

He said the helipad is scheduled for another inspection this month and some administrative details need to be sorted out. But he expects to reopen “within three weeks.” 

The CAA declined to comment beyond its initial statement welcoming the Appeals Court decision that it had been correct to grant an airdrome license to the helipad. 

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Jerome and Nathalie Begot at the opening of Cayman Islands Helicopters heliport in November 2012.