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#1419: Jacmel Flights (fwd)

From: gilles hudicourt <hudic@videotron.ca>

When I was in Haïti in 95-97, ANN (Autorité Aéroportuaire Nationale), with
the help of the UN I think, rebuilt the Jacmel Airport Terminal (cute) had a
phone installed there (impressive), named a Director, and cut the grass
along  the strip (3800 feet long).  They then asked that all companies
involved in Aviation in Haïti consider beginning regular air service betwen
Jacmel and Port-au-Prince.  I was at the time operatin Haïti Aviation and
did several flights to Jacmel to encourage the idea.  The flight to Jacmel
was but a 12 minute flight, which shouldn't cost that much, but even the $20
or $25 US per person that I considered charging for the flight seemed too
high for most people I queried.
Caribintair attempted the venture for several weeks using a wet-leased
Cessna 208 Grand Caravan from Bavaro in the Dominican Republic but soon had
to stop.  The planes were empty and the people complained about the price.
Stories kept coming up about the time the Haitian Air Force under the
commercial name Cohata (Compagnie Haitienne de Transport Aerien) used to do
the run for about $4.00.  What they forget is that: $4.00 in 1972 is not the
same as $4.00 in 1999, that the flights were done in military DC-3 that were
donated to the Haitian Government after the war, that gas at that time was
cheap and tax free (since it was purchased for the military), that the
flight and nmaintenance crews were all Haitian military paid by the
military, that there was no insurance, and that the quality of maintenance
and the qualifications of those crews were questionnable.  Eventually, time
took its toll and these aircraft and Cohata ceased to exist.  I have to
admit that they kept a reasonably good safety record and only had a few
fatal accidents with paying passengers, including one in 1964 where about 30
people, mostly from Jeremie, perished.

In Les Cayes,  the strip was graded (by the UN troups when they withdrew
from the airstrip they had been using as a base), some restoration was done
to the terminal but no interest was shown by the locals who much prefer
driving the 4 hours than paying about $40 per person.

I dont know of any country in the World where one can take a commercial
scheduled flight for $20.  Regardless of the country, aircraft, aircraft
parts, insurance etc. cost the same.  In Haïti, I had to deal with Aviation
Fuel at $3.00 a gallon (against about $1.50 in Florida).

Air Service to Jacmel flourished at the time the new road had not yet been
built.  Then the trip overland to Jacmel could take 8 hours, if it didn't
rain.  When to road was built around 1976, it became a 90 minute trip, at
most.  Now it takes much more, mostly due to the traffic jams one encounters
leaving the Carrefour road but once past that, it can still be done pretty
fast, despite the potholes