Minister responsible for Civil Aviation on St. Maarten the honourable Stuart Johnson has issued a Ministerial Decree to temporarily restrict the use of Boeing 737 –Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft in the St. Maarten airspace (Juliana TMA) considering the recent international developments involving these aircraft.
Minister Johnson held consultations on Wednesday morning with the Department of Civil Aviation, Shipping and Maritime along with the Management Team of the Princess Juliana International Airport to determine a way forward "that both safeguards the lives of travellers to the destination and protects the island's economic interests."
"It is not an easy decision considering we are just beginning to see signs of increased airlifts to St. Maarten but, my first priority is to do what is necessary to, in as much as is possible, guarantee the safety of people travelling throughout our airspace. My team and I will continue to work with our International partners in the Aviation industry and with the airlines who have shown confidence in our destination post-Irma, to find feasible solutions to this present challenge,” said Johnson.
He said as the Aviation Authorities and Governments worldwide assess the situation involving these aircraft it is critical that St. Maarten does not appear to be lagging behind in addressing the matter.
He has based his decision to sign the Ministerial Decree which goes into effect as of March 14, on two recent incidents involving the Boeing 737 Max – 8 aircraft. The first incident involved a Lion Air 737 Max 8 that crashed off the coast of Indonesia killing all 181 passengers and crew members on board. The second incident occurred early this month less than six months later when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff killing all 157 passengers. These two incidents have resulted in most of the Civil Aviation Authorities globally deciding to issue bans on the use of the Aircraft within their airspace. These include the UKCAA, Singapore, Australia and EASA European Union. Our counterparts in Aruba, Curacao, Canada and the Netherlands have also closed off their own airspace to this type of aircraft as of March 12th.
The United States President Donald Trump also announced the immediate grounding of these aircraft on Wednesday and restricted their use in US Airspace.
Johnson said the Department of Civil Aviation, the PJIA and his Cabinet will continue to monitor the developments and will also await the report being prepared by the Federal Aviation Authority FAA based on their investigations into the incidents to determine the next steps to be taken.
He said, “ We will be keeping the travelling public and all stakeholders abreast of all developments in this regard, and I must reemphasise that safety is my primary concern."
Johnson said PJIA has been rated as "a very safe airport by international standards" and this is due to the combined effort of all stakeholders.