By Captain Philip Armbrister
It is a known fact that every governmental sector, the community, and the society of the Bahamas have failed. It has been verified, broadcasted and publicized daily in the news. This has affected the telephone company, water and sewage, Teachers union, Air traffic control, Customs, immigration, Doctors, Pilots, and every law enforcement agency. As a result of this, the entire country is on strike, everyone is marching but there are no solutions to having anything resolved.
In the past week due to an aircraft incident, we’re unable to locate our brother, Captain Byron Ferguson who left Palm Beach airport, and shortly thereafter he encountered mechanical issues with his aircraft. After continuously calling for assistance the aircraft crashed landed approximately two miles away from Nervina Beach just short of Nassau and upon arrival there were no emergency response team waiting. Yes, I said it No help.
In 1998, an aircraft in which I’ve operated also experience mechanical issues, which resulted in the aircraft crash landing in the ocean. This encounter was more severe however, help arrived and I’m glad to be alive to relate to this incident. My trip started as a departure out of Nassau en-route to Freeport to deliver an aircraft. In the middle of the trip, we experienced a complete malfunction of the engine and luckily, my skills and expertise kicked in right away. The control tower in Nassau was contacted; I gave them my position and also inform them that the aircraft will be brought down in the water.
With a slow glide into the water I was able to conduct a controlled landing, allowing my passenger to escape. However, the seat belt did its job and kept me strapped while the aircraft sunk and I was unable to get out. Eventually, after fighting vigorously to get released I was able to free myself and swim to the surface. We swam for a while trying to open a small flotation device and eventually was able to get it inflated and hold on for dear life. There was a cruise ship in the distance but the more we swam the ship got smaller and smaller. Then we settled down and just floated in the water for about another hour and a half. It appeared the sun will be setting soon but looking out to the west there was a Piper Seneca flying just above the water, the prettiest sight I’d ever seen in my life. We cheered and thanked God to know that we will live and be able to home. The coast guard helicopter came a few minutes later, hovered over us and took our picture. We waited in the water until a boat came from great harbor cay and collected us. We were helped into the boat and taken to the cay where one of our pilots Captain Vincent Turnquest was waiting to take us to Nassau.
When we arrived at Great Harbor airport the gentleman who found us was waiting to meet us. We thanked him and hugged him for saving our lives. He explained to us that he was headed to Florida and heard when I called to Nassau asking for help. He went on to say that as he flew he listened to the frequency, and didn’t hear any communication about us and any efforts made to locate us. He explained that he was on his descent into the Fort Lauderdale area and decided to fly all the way back to the Bahamas and look for us. This is the reason that I am alive and able to write this story.
It is now 2018 and the list is too long. This list contains the names of all the pilots that died from the Bahamas. There’s also and always a list of pilots that end up in prison, again is a list too long. Why in the year 2018 doesn’t the Police force have at least one helicopter in Nassau and a qualified person to fly it? I ask again, why is there no helicopter with a qualified person to fly at the police and or defense force???? Why do I have to sit in a foreign country and listen to the rhetoric about how stupid we are as a people? Why does a pilot have to die or go missing because of the lack of concern? Why do professional people arrive on a scene, locate a down aircraft but have no divers willing to enter the water to look for the pilot? Why do we immediately get out our cell phones and record videos that reached my phone in the United States instead of putting that energy into the search? Why do we get on television in the dark and show the world how well we can put together the most unprofessional press conference possible? Why am I able to track every minute of this flight and all the information about it but The authorities in the Bahamas have no information for the family? And if this isn’t the dumbest thing I have ever heard who in their right mind would ask family members to leave an area where a search and rescue is going on because its private property?
So is it fair to say that they are making no sense at all in the Bahamas? I will say yes they are not. Captain Byron Ferguson along with Me Captain Philip Armbrister put up a strong fight with the FNM Government to look into the conditions that pilots have to deal with in the Bahamas. Sometime around 2013, I was advised to cease and desist my recommendations for a pilot’s union or I will be terminated. We were successful in obtaining fifty plus votes, preceded with the union formation followed by my termination. However, everyone who gets into politics doesn’t mean us well. Most politicians sit on their loins and have very little concern after the elections are over.
It’s unclear to me, why there are so many important pieces of equipment missing that’s needed in the Bahamas. No hospitals on family islands, improper radar systems for air traffic controllers, no standard-issue firearms for the police, improper tools for teachers, no lights on the family islands for aircraft to land at night, But guess what? In case you want to know CARNIVAL went on without a hitch and so will JUNKANOO. When do we wake up as a people? How could we? With the national average all the way down. How is it possible? We can’t. It’s beyond sad and I have no words nor am I able to describe what’s going on in the Bahamas.
I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family of Captain Byron Ferguson. It’s very sad that it has come to this. I pray for the best and God bless us all.