At a March 30 meeting at the Beacon House headquarters of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, top aviation executives reportedly confronted air traffic controllers, asking them to remove a statement on their association’s Facebook page.
Airports Authority CEO Albert Anderson, Chief Operating Officer Dale Davis, and other top officials met five air traffic controllers late Monday, about a March 28 statement outlining a March 22 incident at Owen Roberts International Airport in which an incoming Cayman Airways flight was forced to abort a landing to avoid an outgoing aircraft.
The meeting was so heated, according to individuals close to the situation, that three of the air traffic controllers were reduced to tears, expressing fears for their employment. Sources say they are considering retaining legal counsel.
The controllers’ 400-word statement, posted on the Cayman Islands Air Traffic Controllers Association Facebook page on Saturday morning, March 28, has now been removed. It rejected widespread rumors that controllers had been at fault in the incident, alleging the tower had either ignored or misunderstood messages from air crews, especially on Cayman Airways KX505 as it arrived 40 minutes early from Chicago.
While the statement did not name a culpable party in the episode, it indicated three problems in the minutes leading up to the event: The approaching Cayman Airways flight had turned into its final glide path “sooner than expected”; air traffic control had received “conflicting” position reports; and those reports, called “procedural control techniques” are “heavily dependent upon accurate position reports from pilots.” The statement acknowledged that an investigation into the problems would ensue: “One that will more than likely involve analysis of air traffic control audio recordings in addition to flight deck recordings from the aircraft involved.”
The association implicitly rejected a March 25 79-word Cayman Islands Airports Association statement, endorsed by the Civil Aviation Authority, that called the incident an “occurrence,” saying the Airports Authority had completed an investigation and submitted it to the Civil Aviation Authority for a wider probe. At no time, the Airports Authority statement read, “was safety compromised.”
In its Saturday posting, air traffic controllers recognized that neither authority had explained what had happened to cause the problem: “Once the investigation is complete, hopefully we will understand the cause of the incident.”
The Civil Aviation Authority completed its probe by Tuesday, March 24, but is keeping its findings “under lock and key,” according to the same individuals.
Meanwhile, questions to the Civil Aviation Authority, the Cayman Islands Airports Authority and Cayman Airways have remained unanswered, despite repeated telephone calls and emails. Cayman Airways has failed either to name the pilot involved or issue a statement regarding the March 22 incident.
This story has been amended from the original version.