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LIAT flight to Argyle ‘very smooth’ – Pilot

LIAT flight to Argyle ‘very smooth’ – Pilot

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The historic first flight of a Liat aircraft into the Argyle International Airport would, under normal circumstances, have been a short two-minute hop over from the ET Joshua Airport, but two unusual features of the flight — one planned, the other unexpected, caused the duration to extend to 15 minutes.

Liat flight 456 departed the ET Joshua Airport at about 4:30 Sunday afternoon, with 53 passengers and four {{more}}crew on board. At the controls of the ATR 72-600 aircraft was captain Phil Gunsam, with captain Gregory Williams being his co-pilot. Both Vincentians, Gunsam and Williams have each been with the regional airline for 29 years and have both attained the rank of training captain.

The flight attendants, also Vincentians, were Marla Roberts and Kamel Parsons.

On take off from the ET Joshua Airport, captain Gunsam told passengers that on arrival at the AIA, he would do a ‘fly over’ or ‘low pass’ of the Argyle airstrip, turn right, then approach the airport again to make his landing.

However, because the flight was so short, it was delayed a bit to give the pilots enough time to complete paperwork.

“We also had checklists to carry out, so we had to delay a little to get those done,” Williams told SEARCHLIGHT.

During the ‘low pass’ of the Argyle International Airport, passengers on board observed what appeared to be a sea of red clad supporters on the tarmac awaiting their arrival. As captain Gunsam turned the aircraft around and was about to make his second approach, co-pilot captain Williams announced that two dogs had been spotted on the runway, much to the amusement of the passengers on board.

“I had to delay the landing, as the tower had the security vehicle on the runway trying to get the dogs off,” Gunsam told SEARCHLIGHT.

The plane circled for several minutes to give ground staff time to clear the runway, following which the control tower at the AIA gave the all clear for the historic flight to land.

When at 4:45 p.m., the wheels of the aircraft touched the ground at the largest capital project in the history of St Vincent and the Grenadines, emotional cheers erupted from those onboard, with one passenger bursting into loud sobs.

Captain Gunsam, in an interview after the flight, told SEARCHLIGHT that the flight was very predictable.

“It was very smooth, a very comfortable approach. Very predictable, the winds were very good. I don’t forsee any problems in the future. It was quite a comfortable approach and landing.”

He said as a Vincentian, he felt “very happy” to be part of the historic exercise.

Passengers on board the first flight included Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, his wife Eloise and daughter Isis; ULP candidates for South Windward and South Central Windward Frederick Stephenson and Saboto Caesar; Commissioner of Police Michael Charles; Cabinet Secretary Kattian Barnwell; the PM’s press secretary Hans King; Consul General to Toronto Fitzgerald Huggins; the chair of the National Insurance Services Lennox Bowman; business executive Joel Providence and members of the media, including Clare Keizer, editor of SEARCHLIGHT.

The Liat ATR 72-600 was one of seven planes that took part in last Sunday’s exercise. This is the second occasion on which planes have landed at the unfinished AIA, four having done so on November 19, 2015.

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