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Bermuda could become a hub for cargo planes and bring revenue and jobs for the island.

Martin Amick, the chief executive of Longtail Aviation, Bermuda's only air carrier, said the island had a good chance of carving out a niche in the air freight market.

Mr Amick, whose firm added a cargo plane to its fleet last month, predicted: “There is a real opportunity to put Bermuda on the map as a hub.

“We have been discussing that with Skyport — ways that we can increase the utilisation of Bermuda airport, bring revenue, and jobs to Bermuda.”

Mr Amick said the addition of the cargo plane was an important step for Longtail but also for Bermuda. He added there could be immediate benefits for the island, because Bermudian authorities gave clearance for Longtail's all-cargo Boeing B747-400F aircraft in a fraction of the time it would take in countries such as the United States and Britain.

Mr Amick said the difference had made people sit up and take notice.

He explained that the cargo plane's owners had been looking for a place to register the aircraft and Longtail convinced them of the advantages of the Bermuda and were given the nod to proceed.

Mr Amick said the owners' decision was made in April, while the aircraft was in Kansas for maintenance.

He added: “And then all of a sudden the world desperately needed more cargo.

“As the world changed as a result of Covid-19, he made the decision and he wanted us to do it and to do it by May 1.”

Mr Amick's initial reaction was “that's impossible”, but he talked to the Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority about whether the process could be accelerated.

He said: “BCAA proved the value of the Bermuda register by their willingness to look at ways to expedite the process without compromising any of the applicable standards.”

Registration takes two to six months in Bermuda in normal circumstances and more than a year in the US and European countries.

But Mr Amick said by “thinking outside the box”, and with the benefit of some preparation work Mr Amick had done before the contract had awarded to Longtail, the aircraft was made compliant with Bermuda's “top notch” aircraft register.

He added: “It demonstrated the value of the Bermuda registry and the word has got around. We are getting inquiries from multiple directions from people who want to add cargo aircraft to our operations.

“It's a real feather in Bermuda's cap and it will pay dividends for Bermuda and for Longtail.”

Longtail has focused on the VIP charter business in the past.

Owners add their aeroplanes to Longtail's fleet and the company looks after the “ins and outs” of operation and, if asked, will put them out for charter.

Longtail has been an air carrier for 16 years and since last year had been looking at expanding into larger aeroplanes.

The expedited way the cargo plane was dealt with in Bermuda has resulted in several aircraft owners having discussions with Longtail about doing the same thing.

Mr Amick predicted the company will have a fleet of 747s a year from now.

He said: “Demand for cargo is going to be strong for years to come, because a lot of cargo moves around the world in the belly of passenger aeroplanes.

“All the passenger airlines are going to be operating at drastically reduced capacity for some time to come — I think years, not weeks or months.

“All that reduced passenger capacity means reduced cargo capacity and that will have to be filled in by other resources. “Dedicated cargo aircraft are going to continue to be in demand for some time to come.”

Growing demand: the cargo plane that Longtail Aviation has added to its fleet (Photograph supplied)

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Published July 07, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated July 07, 2020 at 2:20 pm)

Island could be hub for cargo planes

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