The Bizarre Story Of St Vincent’s Only Boeing 747

Privately-owned airline One Caribbean Ltd has taken delivery of a 20-year-old B747-400. The airline plans to launch non-stop flights between its St. Vincent base and the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The 747 landing at Argyle
The 747 landing at Argyle International Airport. Photo courtesy: Searchlight

One Caribbean is based at Argyle International Airport (AIA) on the island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It operates one Beech 1900D primarily for charter flights. The company is licensed to fly routes between St. Vincent, Bridgetown and the British Virgin Islands.

In what appears to be a courageous attempt to expand its operations One Caribbean took receipt of the ex-China Airlines B747 in May. The jumbo was the largest passenger airliner ever to have landed on SVG, according to AIN Online. You can watch its happy arrival in the video below:

SVG’s only jumbo

One Mile at a Time caught wind of the carrier’s Dubai objective from St. Vincent’s News784.

The 20-year-old B747 (registration N508BB) was ferried from Phoenix Sky Harbor to Argyle International on the 24th May this year. After China Airlines retired the plane in 2017 it was stored at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville.

Despite the plane not having flown since it arrived on St. Vincent, space has already been made for a hangar to house the jumbo jet.

Argyle International Airport SVG
AIA has plans to build a hangar to house the new arrival. Photo: Argyle International Airport

AIA is a new gateway to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Opened in 2017 it now sees 55 weekly scheduled departures of which 49 are local flights operated by inter-island carrier LIATCh-aviation reports that other flights to and from AIA are operated by Caribbean Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada.

One Caribbean

According to News784 One Caribbean has received “full support” for their endeavor from Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. He is quoted as saying,

St. Vincent and the Grenadines would have its own 747 indigenous based airlines in the not too distant future. A group of Vincentian pilots and business people want to start a small locally base 747 service. It would link St Vincent from different airports, to which my government is going to give full support.”

The airline recently applied to the US Department of Transportation for a Foreign Air Carrier Permit. This ahead of the carrier’s launch of ad hoc charters to the US and, perhaps, non-stop flights to the UAE.

The ECCAA

One Mile at a Time reported this month that the PW4056-powered B747 had been on the ground “for several weeks” while its owners lobbied the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) to register the plane in St. Vincent.

One Caribbean already holds an ECCAA-accredited aircraft operator’s certificate for its Beech 1900D. However, the carrier’s plans to diversify have lagged due to the ECCAA’s apprehension about the registration of the jumbo.

Tempered approach

According to OMAT, the ECCAA acknowledges the aircraft is “physically in Saint Vincent and is scheduled to be de-registered.” However, the authority also admits it is treading carefully because it has not registered a B747 before.

Argyle International Airport building
Accreditation of B747-400 hindered by a nervous ECCAA. Photo: Argyle International Airport

The ECCAA will recall problems associated with its 1998 registering of a DC-10 for defunct carrier Skyjet. Despite the DC-10’s addition to the Antigua and Barbuda registry, the aircraft was based in Belgium and was leased to other carriers.

Four years later the FAA decided that the proxy arrangement contravened its protocols. As a consequence the FAA removed the ECCAA from its list of Category 1 authorities. AIN Online says that, with this in mind, the ECCAA is taking a “two-step approach” to re-registering St. Vincent’s B747-400.

We are discussing the whole plan with the FAA,” said Capt. Paul Delisle, ECCAA’s flight operations inspector. “We want concurrence with the FAA on all matters relating to N508BB’s potential SVG certification.” In step two the ECCAA plans to employ suitably trained inspectors to certify the aircraft.

Should One Caribbean’s plan to fly between St. Vincent and Dubai come to fruition it could herald a dramatic turn around of the island nation’s crumpled fortunes.

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