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FAA issues flight restrictions on planes headed to the Bahamas

Hurricane Dorian damaged this Bahamian family’s house, now they wait for help

Ronnie Saunders, 42, a machine operator at Freeport Harbor, surveys the wreckage Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, that was done by Hurricane Dorian to his Royal Manners house. Saunders lives with his fiancee and 18-year-old daughter.
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Ronnie Saunders, 42, a machine operator at Freeport Harbor, surveys the wreckage Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, that was done by Hurricane Dorian to his Royal Manners house. Saunders lives with his fiancee and 18-year-old daughter.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Sunday that all planes attempting to enter the Bahamas with Hurricane Dorian relief supplies will be turned away unless the flights have been approved by the Bahamian government.

The decision was made at the request of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, which wants to reserve airspace over hard-hit areas of Grand Bahama and the Abacos for officially sanctioned search-and-rescue flights and humanitarian assistance, according to a more detailed statement released by the FAA Monday afternoon.

“Pilots must obtain permission from the Bahamas National Emergency Agency or air-traffic control to enter the area,” the statement reads.

Otherwise, pilots will be denied permission to land, the official FAA “Temporary Flight Restriction,” or TFR, reads.

“This airspace is reserved for [search and rescue] and humanitarian flights. No other flight operations are authorized,” the TFR states.

The policy was put into place because so many planes have been flying to the Bahamas packed with supplies donated by well-intentioned people that the already damaged airports have become congested and flying conditions are becoming increasingly dangerous.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association released a statement this weekend saying U.S. Air Force personnel informed the nonprofit that the “resulting bottleneck is slowing the pace and delaying relief to those who desperately need it.”

According to the statement, three airports in particular are especially impacted.

“Grand Bahama International Airport, Treasure Cay Airport and Leonard M. Thompson International at Marsh Harbour are particularly overworked and operating with limited or no aircraft control facilities,” the organization stated.

Paul Menta, with Key West Cares, a Florida Keys charity group organizing relief flights to the Bahamas, said the organization sent a DC-3 cargo plane with 7,500 pounds of supplies Monday to Eleuthera and that another flight with 6,800 pounds of goods is heading there Tuesday.

The supplies are heading to Green Turtle Cay, which is Key West’s sister city.

From what the pilots hauling relief cargo to the island chain have been telling him about the deteriorating flight safety conditions, Menta thinks the FAA and Bahamian government made the right call.

“I get that everybody wants to help, but all you need is one plane to go down,” Menta said.

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