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Breaking news…Bahama evacuees arrive in Boca but most pilots on hold

Most Boca private pilots are on hold for Bahama evacuation and cargo relief flights.

They’re waiting for clearance and larger aircraft and choppers to take more cargo and passengers, said Jim Costa, former Boca Raton Pilots Association president.

But there is activity at Boca Raton Airport.

“At this point, the emphasis is on evacuation, rather than bringing in supplies. Flights carrying supplies have been flying out of Boca Raton Airport and bringing back evacuees,” Clara Bennett, Boca Raton Airport executive director said Monday.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued temporary flight restrictions over Bahamian airspace Sunday in the wake of Dorian’s destruction.

“Probably because of runway conditions and overload, they will ask small aircraft not to come over right now,” Costa said Sunday. “As they have more resources, a clear runway and pickup trucks to unload the plane, they will accommodate people who want to help.”

Boca small craft pilots “think at this time it would only be a drop in the bucket and disturb other things that are more needed,” Costa added. The group meets weekly at Boca Raton Airport and includes recreational, commercial and military pilots.

Pilots are watching the blog post for Operational Summary – Relief Flights to the Bahamas. It’s constantly changing.

“The airspace in Abaco is already overcrowded. The US Coast Guard, government aircraft, and approved relief flights are all operating to, from, and over the island. There are many more helicopters and fixed wing aircraft here than usual. There is very clear risk in too many aircraft operating here,” the blog posted at noon Monday. “The operational situation in the northern Bahamas is complex, potentially dangerous, and changing continuously.”

Boca Raton Airport has been monitoring the situation.

“Immediately after the storm passed, the Boca Raton Airport Authority suspended U.S. Customs fees through September 18,” Bennett said. “This is in support of the tenants and users who may be flying from the Bahamas.

“In response to the crisis, airport management and several airport tenants met on Thursday last week to discuss how best to support the humanitarian relief effort.

“In an effort to coordinate the relief effort, the Bahamian government has placed a Temporary Flight Restriction over northern Bahamas and, working with the U.S. military, is advising civilian pilots to refrain from flying at this time,” she added.

In a related move, Brightline trains partnered with Tropic Ocean Airways flying out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Tropic is distributing items in impacted areas of Grand Bahama island and The Abacos, according to the company.

By Marci Shatzman

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