Bahamasair 737-500s Banned From US

Filed Under: Industry News, Other Airlines

You’d think we’ve seen enough 737s grounded with the whole MAX situation, though this week three of Bahamasair’s four 737s were banned from operating their standard routes to US airports.

Bahamasair’s fleet

Bahamasair is a small airline based in Nassau, with a fleet of nine planes, including:

  • One 737-700
  • Three 737-500s
  • Three ATR-42s
  • Two ATR-72s

Why Bahamasair’s 737-500s are banned from the US

Historically Bahamasair’s 737s have operated most of their US flights, including to Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Orlando, which are destinations to which they have multiple daily flights.

However, the three 737-500s are no longer allowed to fly to the airports they serve.

Why? Because back in 2010, the US Federal Aviation Administration set a deadline of January 1, 2020, for planes to be ADS-B compliant, and Bahamasair’s 737-500s don’t have that technology.

We’ll talk more about what that is in a moment, though you’d think that a decade would be plenty of notice for them to get this installed.

The chairman of the airline, Tommy Turnquest, claims that the company signed a contract in June 2019 for a supplier to deliver the three kits in September, October, and November of 2019. These kits cost $200,000 each, and the company had made a $200,000 down payment towards the $600,000 total.

He claims that the supplier reneged on their responsibilities, and won’t be able to install these kits before March 2020:

“The supplier indicated they are unable to provide the kits before March 2020 and that is not acceptable to us. Every effort will be made to recoup the money already paid.

This first came up in 2010 but very few aircraft took advantage because within ten years you’re not sure what your fleet would be. In 2018 efforts began to outfit these various aircraft. When Bahamasair purchased five ATRs back in 2016 navigational kits were not put in place but were accessed over the past two years.”

The company is now looking at a deal with a new supplier, which says they could provide the kits within three weeks, at the cost of $195,000 per plane.

What is ADS-B compliance?

In order for planes to fly into and out of most US-controlled airspace, they need ADS-B avionics. This is a new rule as of a few days ago.

ADS-B stands for “automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast,” and it’s a surveillance technology that determines a plane’s position via satellite navigation, and it periodically broadcasts it so that it can be tracked.

Obviously planes have operated perfectly safely up until now without this technology, though it’s no doubt a move in the right direction. The FAA gave a decade notice of this requirement, so it’s hard to feel sorry for any airline that waited until the last minute to get it installed.

Newer planes have this installed automatically, while older planes were supposed to get this installed after the fact. For what it’s worth, Bahamasair’s 737-500s are around 23-27 years old, and have been at the airline since 2012-2014. So they first operated with other airlines, and then never had the technology installed.

How has Bahamasair adjusted their schedule?

Interestingly Bahamasair hasn’t adjusted their schedule all that much:

  • Their one 737-700, with the registration code C6-BFX, is working overtime; the plane operated eight sectors per day to & from the US on both January 2 & January 3
  • The airline has been flying their turboprops to the US more to fill in for the 737-500s being banned from the US
  • As far as the 737-500s go:
    • One hasn’t operated any flights since January 1
    • One has operated flights from Nassau to George Town and Freeport
    • One has operated flights from Nassau to George Town, Freeport, and Providenciales

Bottom line

While it’s unfortunate that Bahamasair’s vendor wasn’t able to get the new technology installed in time, the airline really did wait till the last minute to do so. If you’re scheduled to fly Bahamsair in the next few weeks, don’t be surprised if there’s a last-minute schedule change or aircraft swap.

(Featured image courtesy of BriYYZ)

  1. The “suddenly” in your title doesn’t really do justice to the fact that they had a TEN YEAR heads up on this and waited 9 1/2 of that before taking any action.

  2. Are there any other airlines with non-compliant planes affected by this, or is Bahamasair the only one?

  3. US airlines operate a substatial number of older aircraft (MD-80/90, older 737 or A320 variants, Dash 8, CRJ etc). Question: Have they all been fitted with ADS-B? Or does the rule only apply to foreign operated aircraft?

  4. There is no excuse for an airline to get into this situation. Even private aircraft flying in controlled airspace are required to have ADS-B. It’s all about safety and they had ample time to get it installed.

  5. The bird that hasn’t flown since –
    1/1 is scheduled for a C-check in Costa Rica in a few weeks. I wonder if they will get this installed then.

    Seems so backwards to operate 20+year old 500’s considering the amount of gas and maintenance required.

  6. @Andy – there are us operators with MLAT aircraft that are granted exceptions on a flight by flight basis. Flightradar24 has good information on this whole situation on their twitter and blog. Im not sure why people are focusing solely on Bahamasair here, because there are other airlines this affects including US carriers…

  7. “Obviously planes have operated perfectly safely up until now without this technology”

    Except for MH370.

  8. Lucky, ADS-B does seem like a good thing and no doubt they will be compliant soon. You can’t blame them for their focus on hurricane recovery last fall.

    But you’re doing the Bahamas and Bahamasair a disservice by making them appear unsafe. Even with Ford as a travel agent, it’s true you’re not really running a travel agency blog. But please try to present another side of the coin featuring your hometown neighbor the Bahamas soon.

    First, tourism in the Bahamas is lagging terribly because of perceptions about the hurricane last summer. Even Freeport on Grand Bahama island, which took a direct and slowly grinding hit, is open for business. It is warm and beautiful, with some of the nicest people I’ve met, and accommodation prices are a steal right now.

    Second, when I was stuck in Freeport just before the terrible and unprecedented hurricane last fall, American put lives in danger by cancelling my outbound flight which was scheduled for 48 hours before the storm was due. Bahamasair saved me and many others from life-threatening misery by ADDING seats to Ft. Lauderdale using their 737 instead of the usual ATR. I will ALWAYS be thankful to Bahamasair for that. They understood the danger and they did not price gouge, either.

    Yes, of course American needed to keep its crews and equipment out of harm’s way. My quarrel is that the decision was made MUCH too soon by pinheads in air-conditioned cubicles in Dallas probably; they could have flown safely for at least 24 hours more to get many more people off the island. It’s an ISLAND, and unlike in the USA, you can’t just take a car or a bus when flights are cancelled. Bahamasair understood that and American didn’t.

    So give em some credit, and shine a positive spotlight on Bahamas tourism, please.

  9. @Bobo – Why would anyone visit Freeport when they could visit Nassau. I have taken a cruise to the Bahamas every year for the past four years, and it always stops in Freeport (Grand Bahama Island). Once you get out of the fake shopping village, it is all crappy beaches and industrial facilities. Nassau is much nicer (except the locals trying to sell stuff) with better beaches, and resorts such as Atlantis.

  10. why are you bringing up the MAX situation? Whether it’s Bahamasair refusing to install ADS-B or whether the 3rd party ADS-B supplier failed, this is in no way Boeing’s fault!

  11. The reason tourism is down is because of the DEPARTURE TAX and the many hotels that price gouge mediocre resorts.

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