TOBAGO EXPRESS’ Dash 8-300 aircraft remained grounded for a second day yesterday, as Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) investigators continued their probe into the circumstances which caused Tobago Express Flight 534 to make an emergency landing at Piarco International Airport on Monday. Following that incident, the CAA ordered that all of Tobago Express’ remaining four planes be grounded pending their inspection and the completion of investigations into Flight 534’s emergency landing. CAA director-general, Ramesh Lutchmedial, told Newsday yesterday that the Authority was not in a position to provide Works and Transport Minister Franklin Khan with a preliminary report into Monday’s incident at the time.
He said inspections on Tobago Express’ remaining aircraft are continuing and hinted that one could be in service later in the day. On Tuesday, CAA sources ruled out sabotage as the cause of Monday’s emergency landing. Lutchemedial said once the planes’ inspections (which are being undertaken by Tobago Express and BWIA) are satisfactory, they will be cleared to resume flights to Tobago. Tobago Express general manager George Bell said the airline’s remaing four planes have not received clearance from the CAA to resume flights to Tobago, but he was hoping to have one aircraft operational by today.
Bell said BWIA continues to assist Tobago Express with its passenger loads through the use of one of its 737 jets. While noting that the airline was losing valuable revenue during the time its planes were grounded, Bell said this was of secondary importance to Tobago Express because its top priority is ensuring the safety of its fleet. Bell also said while there has been some assistance from Liat and Caribbean Star, the bulk of the assistance is being provided by BWIA. The Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT) has increased sailings of the fast ferry, The Cat, in order to assist domestic passenger traffic while Tobago Express’ planes are grounded.