GT heliport found unsafe

| 14/06/2013

cayman-island-helicopters.jpgCNS): The country’s highest judge has ruled in favour of a legal action challenging the reasonableness of a decision by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands (CAACI) to certify the commercial heliport in George Town, owned and used by Cayman Islands Helicopters Ltd (CIHL). Chief Justice Anthony Smellie ruled that the decision was unreasonable and the pad should not have been certified as it is not in compliance with the various safety standards with which the authority would normally use to assess such a site. In a complex ruling, the CJ points to a catalogue of reasons why the heliport should not have been certified in response to the legal challenge filed by Axis International Ltd, a commercial neighbour of the heliport.

Although the chief justice has not directly overturned the certification, he has ordered the CAACI to reassess the heliport in accordance with the rules and regulations and safety criteria that it should have used in the first place. Although CIHL also uses the airport, the George Town helipad has been used by the helicopter firm since November 2011 from which it takes off and lands its helicopter for customer tours of Grand Cayman, particularly from cruise ship passengers.

In his ruling following the legal dispute, which listed a catalogue of objections and issues relating to safety questions and the nuisance factor of the heliport against both the CAACI and CIHL, Smellie found that the CAACI had failed to meet its duty imposed by the Air Navigations Overseas Territories Order (ANOTO) and the Overseas Territories Aviation Requirements.

At the end of the 149-page ruling, in which the chief justice scrutinizes the details, procedures, regulations, safety questions and much more followed by the CAACI during the process of the certification, as well asthe influences on its decision, he stated, "[T]he certification of the heliport is not in compliance with the ANOTO and the standards of the OTARs.” The judge pointed to his detailed explanations in the ruling and stated, “[T]he heliport may not be considered to be safe for the purposes of the on-going operation of the helicopter in the manner that it is being operated.”

Smellie highlights a catalogue of issues surrounding the certification, starting with the CAACI’s close involvement from the beginning and its misguided indication to the owners of CIHL that the pad was a suitable location and that it could be certified, as well as the commercial interests of the business.

Smellie said, “It is apparent from the evidence that the CAACI allowed itself to become unduly influenced in the process of certification by its willingness to accommodate the commercial objectives of CHIL. Indeed, it may have felt embarrassed and obliged to do so on account of its own early and premature expression of satisfaction as to the suitability of the Heliport site.”

The port is located on North Church Street in the George Town harbour on an ironshore coastline and is very close to the water.

He points to the evidence of the CAACI’s willingness to depart from the “obviously prudent” safety standards imposed by the OTARs as there were a number of issues raised in the case that indicated the location was unsuitable. 

The ruling notes a number of problems but the police also indicated that they would not use the site for its air support unit except in the most dire emergency circumstances, as they too did not believe it was safe.

The ruling found an accumulation of issues which point to the CAACI’s decision being unreasonable and, as a result, ordered the authority to address the issue. Despite finding that the port may not be safe, the judge opted not to order its closure.

“I consider it appropriate, however, that the Court should recognize the on-going remit of the CAACI as the body duly authorised and responsible for ensuring air navigation safety within the Islands. This is not a function that the court should override if there is another appropriate remedy. The CAACI has an on-going ability under Article 122 of ANOTO to monitor and reassess the Heliport and decide whether or not to vary, suspend or revoke certification. Rather than quashing the certificate, the court should allow the CAACI to exercise this function now in light of the clarifications of its responsibility and the issues for its assessments …”

Smellie adds that it should not be obliged to maintain the certification because of the commercial interests, as he declared that the heliport was not in compliance with the standard regulations.

Despite the findings of the CJ and the obvious safety issues raised in the complex and lengthy ruling, other sources have stated that the CAACI is appealing the decision.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    So who did they piss off here?  They did all their due diligence, got all their licenses, and did not cause any accidents or problems.  They put in a lot of money getting the business up and running. They followed the law and now they are in trouble.  Take a good look at how things run in the Cayman islands before you think about running any business here.  Remember that they just passed a law that certain jobs will be given to only Caymanians and they have not said just what the jobs will be.  Do you really want to take the chance?  And remember that the NEW "honorable for life" premeir has stated something about being more business friendly so you know what that means.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think you'll find the neighbours had a completely different view about problems and why they took the action.  The Dive school next door were not happy with it, and they were there first. I think you'll find the international guidance and rules were broken, it would be helpful if CNS could link to the full report.  That could even more enlightening as to what has been said in court.

  2. noname says:

    Was it the helicopter that flew into Capt. Arthur's house opposite the 7-11 again???? Cars are far more dangerous in this area.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If they’re not refueling in town then how is there any more danger than when setting down at say the Ritz, Pappagallos, or the back of a yacht? Rules for the sake of rules?

    • Anonymous says:

      Its not about refuelling.  Its about a SINGLE engine helicopter crashing into a building on take off or landing with no safety zone or worse a busy road, God forbid.

      • noname says:

        How many single engine aircraft approach Owen Roberts – flying near the fuel storage facilities, Sunset House, residential areas and commercial areas of George Town.  Should we close down ORIA?

        • Anonymous says:

          A single engine approach or take off from an airport with safety zones, fire and rescue is hugely different from a helipad in a congested area.   Essentially a fixed wing aircraft is on a glide path when landing on the 7000 foot runway at oria.   Options to hit the helipad with an engine failure in a rotary wing is autorotation only.  I know which one I would prefer.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The end result of the top management CAA and CIH being very cosy with each other these past years was always going to be a bad one, with a huge legal bill set to be expanded by a pointless appeal designed to try and save face coming out of government coffers. The losers as usual are the people of Cayman. When you look at what’s happened with the management of the airport and other public bodies you despair.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What about the Helipad at the Ritz??

  6. Anonymous says:

    will there be any fines? there should be. seriously now… somebody needs to get fined.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Well duh!  Wayne Panton would not allow the helicopter to land on the dock for safety reasons when he was on the port authority board!  He should be in charge of the CAA!  How much public money has this decision cost?

    • Anonymous says:

      Upwards of $500,000 costs i believe.  Wasted money all because of a 'cosy relationship'.  But what dies it matter, it's only public money.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Don't assume that this ruling will stand.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Anyone with half a brain could see this was not safe so close to the road, building and water.  Ask the diving school next to the heliport and the boat people at the dock.  Did the CAA not think there was a problem if the police did not think it was safe, or have they ignored them as well.  This is a joke.  Can you see the FAA ignoring the rules for commercial pressure?   We should think it fortunate this was not an accident enquiry.

  10. BrianTomlinson says:

    The CJ should look into the landing strip at Little Cayman. There are more safety issues there according to the ICOA regulations than at the heliport on the waterfront.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It appears that this Board has a lot of members on there who are really incompetent or they are just being led blindly by the Chairman. Did you not see that this could potentially cause problems/ danger/ liabilities to the public and government. I do believe the Progressives need to look after the make up of the Board and make some changes asap.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is not the Airport Authority, it is Civil Aviation Authority, two complete different Authorities!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I've seen helicopters operated in the UK from parking lots and even from a small pad build overthe top deck of a multi-story parking lot without any objections. I've also flown on commercially operated helicopter flights out of grass fields with no special preparations at all. In Atlantic City, NJ they've been running pleasure flights off the end of Steel Pier for years using Robinson R44s with no problems. The word jealousy comes to mind here, someone's doing a good job so let's come along and spoil it. Of course the fact that this is prime shoreline property almost in the middle of GT might also be a factor.

    • Anonymous says:



      The helicopter was landing 50 ft away from a building full of tenants and what 75 ft away from the main road that has cars up and down and loads of tourists from the cruiseships ….



      In all the cases you've mentioned I am positive they had far more and adequate space to safely operate. 

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is a tourist attraction. That adds to the economy. How is any of this helpful.  Seems that people pull the "safety issue" out of the hat when they don't know the first thing about safety or  how the very nature of operating a helecopter lends itself to checks and more checks. But lets argue over it anyway..not like there are more important issues.


    • Anonymous says:

      What part of the landing pad is too close to the road and far too many Helicopters crash close to take off and landing do you not understand?  Does it always have to take a death for people to wake up? Move it somewhere else where it can be a real asset to the economy.

  14. Anonymous says:

    another great day for the civil service……

  15. Hoping for better days says:

    Good! Lets make sure we stick to policy and safety regulations so no-one gets hurt.

    • Anonymous says:


      Like having a stable passageway along the West Bay public beach area for Emergency vehicles to traverse safely. You know the area where thousands of cruise ship passengers including the elderly and handicapped gather. Not to mention the people visiting friends and family or are always here living in Cayman that go there as well.  

      Hoping for better days….Ha boy 

    • Biggles says:

      Any chance we could move the airport as well while we are about itl…maybe Bodden Town?

    • Anonymous says:

      So the thumbs down with regards to sticking to safety and policy are for…..?

  16. Anonymous says:

    What's new, in these Islands it's who you know that matters not what's right, wrong or according to the law. Hopefully this is changing now. ########################## 

    • Anonymous says:

      In this case, your argument could work both ways. The owners of the buildng accross the street couldnt' be poor. 

  17. Anonymous says:

    I believe that this is one of the major items that they were not in compliance with.

    7. Rescue and Fire Fighting Services (RFFS)

    7.1 For licensed heliports, both temporary and permanent, Aerodrome Standards

    Department will impose an RFFS requirement as part of the licence. A heliport is not

    permitted to operate as a licensed facility whenever these requirements cannot be met.

    7.2 Public Transport helicopter operators are advised in ‘Flight Operations Department

    Communications 24/2005’ (dated 16 September 2005) of the CAA’s guidance on




    can be obtained from the Flight Operations Inspectorate (Helicopters) or the SRG website

    'Publications'. However, site keepers are reminded that the responsibility for the safety of

    all helicopter flying operations, at unlicensed sites, including adequate provision of

    RFFS, lies wholly with the helicopter operator.

  18. Anonymous says:

    "“It is apparent from the evidence that the CAACI allowed itself to become unduly influenced in the process of certification by its willingness to accommodate the commercial objectives of CHIL. …"


    It would interesting to know if CAACI board members are also shareholders of CHIL.

    • Caymanian by status says:

      Maybe No, but I bet they get free rides and perks.  I am soooo tired of the lack of ethics at every single turn.  When did all business people lose sight of what is right and wrong and decided that bending the rules is okay?  It is not.  Period.