Why Bahamasair’s Boeing 737-500s Are Banned From US Airspace

Three Boeing 737-500s owned and operated by Bahamasair have been blocked from entering the United States. This is because they lack a particular onboard technology required by the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by 1 January 2020. With the deadline come and gone, the planes will need to upgrade their equipment before resuming service to the United States.

Why Bahamasair’s Boeing 737-500s Are Banned From US Airspace
Bahamasair has a three Boeing 737-500s. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

The FAA’s policy

According to The Tribune, the FAA issued a rule in 2010 that made it compulsory for all aircraft to be equipped with ADS-B avionics by January 1, 2020. ADS-B stands for “Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast”.

According to Trig Avionics, this technology transmits highly accurate positional information to ground controllers and also directly to other aircraft. Trig also states that ADS-B’s accuracy is greater than conventional radar surveillance, thus giving air traffic controllers the potential to reduce the required separation distance between ADS-B equipped aircraft.

Why Bahamasair’s Boeing 737-500s Are Banned From US Airspace
A diagram of how ADS-B Out works with GPS and ground stations. Photo: Trig Avionics

10 years of notice

As you may have read above, the rule was imposed in 2010 with a deadline of 1 January 2020. Therefore, any airline dealing with airspace governed by the FAA should have very little excuse for not having the equipment installed by now.

However, the chairman of Bahamasair defends the airline, saying that it has been difficult for Bahamasair to secure necessary kits for the company’s older 737 planes. In fact, Bahamasair signed a contract in June to have the three kits delivered in September, October and November 2019. However, the supplier did not follow through on the agreement, leaving the airline in its current situation. The Tribune reports that the airline has already paid the company $200,000 of its $600,000 contract.

But what’s the airline’s excuse for leaving this maintenance until the last few months? Here’s what they had to say:

“This first came up in 2010 but very few aircraft took advantage because within ten years you’re not sure what your fleet would be. In 2018 efforts began to outfit these various aircraft. When Bahamasair purchased five ATRs back in 2016 navigational kits were not put in place but were accessed over the past two years.” -Tommy Turnquest, chairman of Bahamasair

Why Bahamasair’s Boeing 737-500s Are Banned From US Airspace
Bahamasair once operated several Boeing 737-200s before they left the fleet. Photo: Brian via Flickr

So what now?

Turnquest says that the supplier is unable to provide the kits before March 2020. Therefore, Bahamasair will make “every effort will be made to recoup the money already paid.”

Instead of the original supplier, the airline is looking for a new supplier that is indicating it is able to provide the kits within three weeks for approximately $195,000 per plane. Doing the math, it would be $5,000 less per plane.

With one of the 737-500 aircraft soon to be scheduled to be out of commission for 75 days for a maintenance check in Costa Rica, and the other two put on other routes, the airline “does not anticipate disruption in [its] services or tedious delays”.


It’s unfortunate that the airline relied on a supplier that could not deliver on the agreement in time. However, it appears that these aircraft were delivered to the airline in 2012 and 2014 – a respective lead time of eight and six years. The upgrade could have even happened later, in 2017 or 2018. This certainly doesn’t look good on Bahamasair despite the supplier falling through.

Who do you think is most at fault here? Let us know in the comments!

We reached out to Bahamasair for comment but no response has been received. We also noticed that Airfleets has listed the aircraft as leases from AerCap and GECAS. We have contacted both leasing companies with some questions.