Marsh Harbour Airport By Stephanie Humblestone

Abaco news - from the Abacos newspaper

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Pie in the Sky - The "New", Expanded Marsh Harbour airport
By Stephanie Humblestone - 9-15-00

Airport Update 1
Airport Update 2

The other day someone told me the word "gullible" is not in the dictionary. "Isn't it?" I replied amazed, demonstrating my gullibility as I did on another occasion three years ago. It was the presentation of plans for a new airport terminal in Marsh Harbour by the then Min. of Civil Aviation, the Hon. Pierre Dupuch, and two visiting consulting architects from Nassau, Mr. Reginald Armbrister and Mr. Amos Ferguson, both of whom "went back to the drawing board" after the meeting to iron out a few details and haven't been heard of since! Neither, too, has our new international terminal.

It was to be 25,000 square feet in area with all the amenities of any international airport, meeting security regulations stipulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. In addition, there was to be a new jet runway which would accommodate huge jets such as 767s and a control tower (way, way overdue). I noted all the promises and reported them at the time in the newspaper to the people of Abaco believing that these much needed improvements would materialise soon thereafter. (That's a bigger joke than the dictionary one!) After all, why would a delegation be sent to Abaco from the capital, blue prints of the proposed building tacked on the wall of the Magistrates Court for all to peruse, promises made, budgetary figures discussed and a time frame indicated? Now - and I am sure I am not alone - I am beginning to think it was a futile academic exercise and our 42,000 visitors a year must continue to transit through the present inadequate structure which is an insult to them and an embarrassment to us.

Prominent members of the community, pilots, airlines representatives and a scattering of the public attended the meeting. Pertinent questions were posed and there was some overt skepticism. After Mr. Armbrister "walked the audience through" the new terminal on paper (where it was to remain) from arrival to actually boarding the plane, Minister Dupuch opened the floor for question time. "What kind of time frame are we looking at, Minister?" asked one man, but it could have been the voice of everyone.

"As soon as possible," replied Min. Dupuch with that special brand of confidence peculiar to politicians.

"Do you mean by that tomorrow or five years?" replied the man. "Tomorrow!" (meaning in the "near future") came the reply, revealing that politicians not only have ill-placed confidence but a totally different perception of time from the rest of us.

We are still waiting . . . and waiting. If it is out at Marsh Harbour International Airport, is not a pleasant or elevating experience. Granted, some efforts have been made of late to improve the exterior of the airport in terms of painting and roofing but inside is still, to put it very bluntly, "the pits." The departing tourist is greeted with peeling plaster, dirty walls, cracked chairs, broken tables, chipped counters and smudged windows. Cramped space means passengers have to clamber over each other's luggage. There is no security of baggage and it is often a free-for-all to get to a check-in counter. As for the matter of air safety and the absence of a control tower - let's not even go there!

The waiting area outside is no better. There is one chair which has been backless for ever. Flies regularly congregate round a grimy looking trash can under the public telephone and around the side of the building where Bahamasair passengers arrive, there is no seating. Family and friends awaiting passengers are reduced to sitting on turned over milk crates and buckets.

If it weren't for the friendly airport manager and staff - who are quite evidently neglected by the powers- that-be - the airport would be a complete abomination. Already, it is close! My heart goes out to airport personnel. We are just passing through but they are there all day and it is not a place to get stuck for the day. Spartan and uninviting, it's a lousy ending to a lovely vacation.

The snack bar is as its name suggests, with a limited menu of conch fritters, sandwiches, etc. The nearby Airport Restaurant and Bar is open daily and not just during its advertised times of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. but 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Open, yes! totally to the open air, its sides, roof, doors and entire structure! Please someone demolish it or at least remove the highly amusing but misleading notice of "business hours."

Quite obviously the conditions at the airport and the absence of a new terminal are not the fault of local government which is probably as frustrated as the rest of us. Sometimes Nassau, the purse string holder, feels much farther than 100 miles away. Anyway, on occasions it can take as long as crossing the Atlantic to get there.

Min. Dupuch did tell us THREE YEARS ago that the plans "were not cast in concrete." How right he was! How prophetic! It seems they were the stuff that dreams are made of!

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