By anguillian November 23, 2012 09:37



Hon. Walcott Richardson along with Edgar Richardson and Pastor Norril Gumbs welcoming pilots at airport

For many years, Anguillians have been regarded as the leading seafarers in the Caribbean to the extent that it has been said that the “sea is in their blood.”

Today, while the sea is still a means of cultural pleasure and livelihood for many locals, aviation has become a growing attraction for a large number of younger generation of Anguillians. To that extent, Anguilla is believed to have turned out the majority of pilots in the region over a period of fifty years.

During a period of fifty years manyqualified as private, commercial and military pilots, serving Anguilla and other regional islands as well as beyond the Caribbean. Unfortunately, some of them have died in mishaps and a few of natural causes. Altogether, both dead and alive, the current number of Anguillian pilots has been listed asalmost 70. This count was recorded in the brochure for three special activities held last weekend in their honour.
The idea to celebrate the Anguillian pilots was conceived by West End resident, Edgar Richardson of Modern Day Productions. The event was announced on October 12, just a day before Kirby Hodge, one of the island’s outstanding pilots, disappeared on a flight from St. Croix to St. Thomas. The activities for the occasion, held in the shadow of Kirby’s disappearance, were a Church Service at Bethel Methodist Church at South Hill on Saturday, November 17; a banquet at La Vue, a recently-expanded accommodation, restaurant and conference facility overlooking Road Bay from Back Street, South Hill; and a boat race at Meads Bay, one of the traditional racing sites.

Members of the public, pilots and family of pilots at the Church Service

Pilots serving and residing outside Anguilla began arriving on Friday, November 16, adding to the number of pilots based on the island. They were welcomed at the Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport by Minister of Home Affairs, Walcott Richardson. “We are glad that Modern Day Productions thought it proper for us to recognise the ‘men of the air of Anguillian birth and association,’” he said in his welcome address while also paying tribute to a number of women as well.

“The people of Anguilla have always been proud of their pilots…As Minister of Gender Affairs it would be remiss of me not to recognise the beautiful women in our midst who are also pilots. I am glad to know that this industry is not limited to the male gender, but that it is open to all to participate and to be proud pilots and people of Anguilla.”

Former Chief Minister, Osbourne Fleming, (cousin of late pilot Kenneth Fleming) and others at the Church Service

Among the pilots who spoke was Cleophas Hodge, a long-established airman with a flight school in St. Thomas and who also serves as an FAA consultant. Cleophas worked closely with Edgar Richardson to organise the celebration of pilots, and praised him for his foresight. Other speakers were Col. Caroline Adams-Fawkes (ret.) who served as a helicopter pilot with the National Guard in St. Croix; Ernest Connor, who serves outside Anguilla; Maurice Connor who was one of Anguilla’s three original pilots and who, along with the late Michael Hughes, were colleagues of the late Captain Clayton Lloyd of the then Valley AirService (VAS); Derek Thompson who also flew with VAS later on and who now serves in St. Thomas; Te’wanna Hodge, Cleophas’s daughter, a pilot in St. Thomas; and Bernard Richardson formerly of The Valley. He has been a pilot since 1970 and has flown as a Captain of A.L.M, K.L.M., D.C.A. and other aircraft in the Netherlands, Canada and the United States. He now serves as a Flight Operations Inspector and Auditor with LIAT.

Members of the public and family of pilots at the Church Service

The 5 pm service at Bethel Methodist Church, the following day, Saturday, November 17, was conducted by Superintendent Minister, Rev. Dunstan Richardson, assisted by Local Preacher, Janice Hodge. “You may not hear this too often. We have been, and we are, appreciative of all your service to humanity,” the Minister told the pilots. “The fact that individuals fly with you, or like to fly with you, is an indication of how much you are appreciated and how much they trust you as pilots. We find it at times so difficult, so hard to trust all that we have in the hands of God, and it amazes me to see the amount of trust that individuals putin pilots…You are their leader, their guide, their shepherd, their pilot, their good Samaritan and, most of all, a good Anguillian.”

Sister Janice Hodge and Rev. Dunstan Richardson, conductors of the Service

Reverend Richardson continued: “To all pilots of Anguilla, and of Anguillian parentage, we praise you. We thank and appreciate you. You have been doing a magnificent job. Continue to fulfil your servant hood. Serve strangers; serve your enemy; serve the people of God. As I send you forward, I ask that you take these three aspects with you, and before you, and try to live by them. First of all, I urge you, as you take care of the aircraft you fly, to also take care of your body…If you are to execute your profession adequately, and safely, you must be in good health. Take your valuable rest…Secondly, do not get yourself involved in anything that is illegal regardless of its immediate income … It will come back to haunt you one day or may even lead to your demise. Anguillians are proud people, honest and hard-working. Keep up that tradition and be faithful to that tradition. Lastly, stay in tune with God for He is the only one who will keep you up there [flying in the sky].”

The majority of Anguillian pilots at the Banquet at La Vue

Earlier, during the service, Mr. Walcott Richardson expressed appreciation that a feature of honouring the Anguillian pilots was to raise funds to train young Anguillians to fly aircraft as well as to serve as mechanics. He took the opportunity to list a number of Anguillian pilots who have died mainly while in service and offered belated condolences to their families.

A senior pilot, Restomel Franklin, lauded Edgar Richardson, of Modern Day Productions, for bringing the pilots together to mark aviation in Anguilla over the past fifty years. Among other matters, he complained that there now too many aviation regulations. “Before, we were able to fly our planes whether they had British or US registration to any island,” he stated in part. “In those days, if we had an emergency, we could have taken any aeroplane and fly to Barbados or Puerto Rico. Today, with the restrictions that we have – if we come in with a US-registered plane to fly to certain islands – we may be stopped.”

Representatives of deceased pilots

Mr. Franklin said there was a need for the Government and the private sector to work towards encouraging bigger aircraft to serve Anguilla and the rest of the Caribbean. He also stated there was a need to seek to train younger persons to serve in the aviation profession.

The church service was followed immediately by the banquet at La Vue which attracted many persons including the families of the pilots and members of the public.


Past and present pilots of Anguilla and representatives of deceased and otherwise absent pilots

The main speaker was Mark Romney, General Manager of LIME Anguilla. He made the point that Anguillians had etched their names in the annals of transportation history – both air and sea. “In the aviation industry there are many milestones and, from a Caribbean perspective, Anguilla has been very much in the forefront of the airline industry,” he stated. “We have produced some 70 pilots – including some 5 female pilots – a number that is unmatched by any other Caribbean nation. These highly-skilled professionals take flight each day and are passionate about ensuring the safe and comfortable journey of their passengers.”

Pilots and their representatives, recipients of special awards

Mr. Romney continued: “Anguilla’s airline services date back almost 50 years. It began with Anguilla Airways, owned by the late Jeremiah Gumbs, which later became Valley Air Service under the direction of the late Capt. Clayton Lloyd and Government must be commended for renaming the Wallblake Airport in his honour. Then there was Air Mello later rebranded Air Anguilla; Carib Air Service, renamed Tyden Air; and now we have Trans-Anguilla, Anguilla Air Services, Rainbow International and Anguilla Air Express. We also had private airline charter companies – Island Air Charters and Caribe Air Charters. Now, in the modern world of luxurious air travel, we have seen Lloyd Aviation Services – a full service FBO that meets and exceeds the expectations of the clientele.”

Edgar Richardson (centre) with families of Clayton Lloyd and Kirby Hodge along with Cleophas Hodge and wife

Mr. Romney stated that against the backdrop of a rich history of airline service, “Anguilla still finds itself with a huge problem – airlift to complement our tourism product and, by extension, the air needs of the public.” He stressed that “while there are some key factors to consider, including operating cost, aircraft type and key sustainable routes, we are faced with two fundamental issues: regulations (in terms of British vs. US registration) and a unified approach; and the creation of a national carrier.”

He continued: “Building on the Anguilla Revolution, let’s revolutionise the airline industry. Let’s adapt a model where the British-registered aircraft serves the Eastern Caribbean and the US-registered aircraft services the US destinations. We’ve got to create alliances with the major carriers so that our local airline appears in their reservation system. ATB and AHTA, you have a part to play. NBA and CCB, whilst local, we must think regionally and internationally. Government, you need to be a steering force in this process. We have to make the proposed development of the Clayton Lloyd International Airport a reality. The runway extension to accommodate 737s must be backed by a plan that makes the operation of this entity, under the Anguilla Air & Sea Port Authority, profitable. To the many entrepreneurs present, let’s really sit down and create a sustainable model for a national carrier.”

Retired Pilots Bernard Richardson, Caroline Adams-Fawkes with Edgar Richardson

During the banquet, certificates, plaques and other awards were presented to the pilots or in their absence to their families and friends by Cleophas Hodge. Those listed for certificates were pilots Allan Brooks, Ian Brooks, Kyle Brooks, Deno Carty, David Christmas, Colin Connor, Roy Fleming, Benjamin Franklin, Kerwyn Goddard, Beverly Gumbs, Cleophas Hodge, Jean Hawley, Ivo Hodge, Burnett Hodge Jr., Hillary Hodge Jr., Dawn Hodge, Jeremy Hodge, Lowell Hodge, Te-Wanna Hodge, Aldain Jones, Darlon Lloyd, David Lloyd, Dennis Lloyd, Leslie Lloyd, Derick Payne, Maxwell Proctor, Basil Richardson, Kenneth Richardson, Keith Rogers, Percival Romney, Calvin Smith, Eddie Sutton, Avery Carl Thomas, Derek Thompson, Curt Webster, Cuthwin Webster, Elvis Webster, Rodney Tony Webster and Jerome Willock.

Cleophas Hodge and two of his children

Those who received plaques were Caroline Adams, Ernest Connor, Maurice Connor, Trevor Connor, Restomel Franklin, Cleophas Hodge, Bernard Richardson and Vincent Richardson.

The pilots awarded posthumously were Beresford Carter, Kenneth Fleming, Bevan Hodge, Cardigan Hodge, Michael Hughes, Roy Illidge, Clayton Lloyd, Junior Lloyd, Lunsford Richardson, Parex Richardson, Beldon Rogers, Levette Ruan, Marty Smith, Ken Webster and Kirby Hodge. Clayton Lloyd and Kirby Hodge were specially honoured with glass awards for outstanding service.

Mark Romney (Speaker) and Kenneth Hodge (Protocol Officer)

By anguillian November 23, 2012 09:37


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