Saturday , April 1 2023

BES Air ready to fly, but runs into bureaucracy

The Dutch aviation company BES Air – together with the German company Air Alliance as partner – is ready to connect Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba with each other and with Sint Maarten, but is, in their own words, opposed by the Inspectorate for Aviation and Transport (ILT).

Owner Wim Hesselink has complained about this to the National Ombudsman and the Second Chamber Committee for Kingdom Relations. The latter has asked State Secretary Knops for a response. Hesselink has been working in the aviation sector for more than 40 years. In 2007 he became involved in aviation in the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom.

BES Air-eigenaar Wim Hesselink.

Business plan
“I was commissioned by then-Lieutenant Governor Hyden Gittens of St. Eustatius to make a business plan for a local independent airline. They were completely fed up with Winair. The tickets were too expensive and the service left something to be desired. Flights were dropped or luggage remained standing. I have done research and have come to the conclusion that it was feasible to set up a flight company on Statia. ”
Hesselink delivered a complete business plan, but did not hear anything else. ,, I then decided to do it myself. Two years ago I was referred to the Ministry of Economic Affairs by a contact at the Ministry of Infrastructure. That wanted very much that there would be a connection between Statia and Bonaire. I adjusted my plan to that wish and was subsequently advised by the ministry to call on the Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten for financing. ”

He also followed the advice to register BES Air in the Caribbean Netherlands.   He regrets doing that because now he had to deal with the bureaucracy of the ILT. ,, I first had to buy planes, register them and then apply for a permit. That is the reverse world. You are not going to build a house first and only then apply for a permit with the risk that you will have to demolish your house again? ”
Hesselink has found a way to bypass the ILT. ,, I have found a partner, Air Alliance who is based at Siegenland airport in Germany. I can use their Airline Operator Certificate. The German aviation service has given permission for this. The only thing that I still have to arrange is financing. I prefer to do this via the BNG, but I do need the cooperation of the Dutch government. ”

And that’s what it’s about. “Everyone calls for better connections, but when it comes to actions, no one is home. I am ready to offer reliable and affordable flights within 3 to 4 months between St. Eustatius, Saba, Bonaire, Saint Martin / Saint Martin, Saint Barths and Saint Kitts. We can also provide patient transport. That is now done by helicopter and that is expensive. If we do it, the government will save at least 2 million euros annually. ”
The short flights between the Windward Islands will carry BES Air with Cessna’s of the type Grand Caravan for 12 to 14 passengers, the longer route to Bonaire with a Dornier 328 with 30 seats. ,, We want to start with 4 aircraft and possibly one for ambulance flights. On St. Eustatius we will build a hangar for maintenance. That will create additional employment, “says Hesselink.
,, I have been working on it for so long and there is already so much time and energy that I told myself: I am going to continue. ” Knops is expected to respond within 2 weeks, for a consultation with the parliamentary committee for Kingdom Relations about Caribbean Netherlands.

The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament wants clarity as to why BES Air, a new airline initiative for the Caribbean Netherlands, so far hasn’t been allowed to start executing flights to St. Eustatius and Saba from St. Martin.

The Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations during its procedural meeting on Wednesday decided to ask State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops for a formal reaction to a letter that Jan Hesselink of BES Air sent to the committee in December last year.

The Daily Herald

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  1. Tourism on the islands, particularly St Eustatius, and Saba

    Improved, convenient and reliable air service for the BES islands,would be a major plus toward economic growth,stability and development of the islands. Presently, the lone air service provided by Win Air is questionable, due to scheduled limited flights,no freight and costly passenger ticket rates between the islands, via St Maarten.
    With an additional air service provider, with the capacity of the air carrier mentioned, one can expect commerce,tourism and construction on the islands, particularly, St Eustatius, Bonaire and Saba,to create greater opportunities for business growth, on these islands. Opportunities such as hotel construction,manufacturing,banking would revolutionize social integration, thus reflecting in GDP growth, increase employment and finance.

  2. Saba definitely needs better affordable transport links by air as well by sea – Winair is government owned and our only flight option – so this makes it doubly wrong that we pay such high prices for such a limited service – but this also probably explains the problems experienced by BES Air.