Cayman Airways and the Costa Rica link

CAYMAN ISLANDS - VR
ICAO CODE: CAY 378
CALLSIGN: Cayman

Owen Roberts... also known asa "Bobby" and "The Commander."

A pioneer of Caymanian aviation was Owen "Bobby" Roberts, a former RAF Wing Commander who bought out Parker's operation. He called his airline Caribbean International Airlines, but his focus was on the Cayman Islands. By 1950, Roberts had established a fairly regular service between Cayman and Tampa, Kingston, and Belize. The air service changed the lives of Caymanians in many ways.

Cayman Brac Airways DC-3

Roberts knew that the needs of the civil aviation industry would change rapidly. He lobbied Commissioners Ivor Smith and Andrew Gerrard to seek help from England to build airfields in the Cayman Islands. In 1952, construction was started on the largest project Grand Cayman had ever seen: an airstrip, with an estimated cost of £93,000. On 28 November, in front of a crowd of several hundred, the Santa Maria, one of the Catalinas owned by Owen Roberts's CIA, made a perfect landing on the partially completed runway.

The existence of an airstrip on Grand Cayman made the island more attractive to other airlines. Roberts bought two used Lockheed Lodestar airliners to keep ahead of the competition. However, a tragic accident put an end to his plans. On its inaugural flight from Kingston to Grand Cayman on 10 April 1953, one of the Lodestars crashed on takeoff from Palisadoes Airport. Owen Roberts, aged just 40, was killed, along with thirteen passengers and crew. Caribbean International Airways-and regular air service to the Cayman Islands-died with Owen Roberts.

Construction of the George Town airport was completed in August 1953. It was officially opened in March 1954 by Governor Sir Hugh Foot and named Owen Roberts Field.

A few years ealier, LACSA started stopping in Cayman Islands to refuel and be able to increase the capacity of it's cargo to Miami. This route was quite popular on it's northbound leg, but it's counterpart was not so. With that stop, the C-46 could carry 2000lbs more of useful cargo.

British West Indian Airways (BWIA) eventually began stopping at Grand Cayman on its weekly flights between Kingston and Belize, thus restoring regular, if infrequent, air service. LACSA in 1954 the company obtained rights for a weekly passenger flight to Cayman. By the end of that year, Caymanians were served by two flights a week to Kingston, two to Miami, one to Belize, and one to Costa Rica and Panama.

LACSA's general manager, Roberth Smith, and other directors started thinking about the posibilities to stablish an airline within the 3 main islands: Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac.

The first jet aircraft to land in Cayman was LACSA's BAC 1-11; however, it came to service LACSA's DC-6s, which were both out of service here. Regular jet service to Grand Cayman was established by BWIA.

The airport on Cayman Brac began as a community initiative. In 1954, a group of volunteers hacked out a 1,200-foot airstrip at the west end of the island and then levelled it with a heavy roller borrowed from Jamaica.

As a result of entreaties by Commissioners Smith and Gerrard, England provided funds to extend and blacktop the strip. The runway was completed in 1955 and named the Gerrard-Smith Airport in honour of the two Commissioners who had encouraged its construction.

Mr. Richard Arch, one of the many aviation pioneers that was honoured during the 50 year aviation anniversary, accepts his award from Mr. Richard Smith, Director of Civil Aviation while Lady Katherine Townsend-Rose, Owen Roberts' Grand-daughter looks on. They are all standing in front of the PBY plane that was here for the celebrations.

Cayman Brac Airways was founded, as a wholly owned subsidiary of LACSA, in 1955 to link the Sister Islands with Grand Cayman. The services started with Beechcraft C-45's, and after a few months the Douglas DC-3s. In the seventies, these aircraft came back to Costa Rica for domestic service.

Most Cayman Islands air passengers at that time were seamen going to work on ships owned by National Bulk Carriers. LACSA transported many of them in DC-6s and C-46 cargo planes converted into passenger aircraft, which were so large they could carry an entire ship's crew.

In 1962 the people who built the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman financed the construction of a small grass airfield on the island.It was built on private land with private funds, and it was named Edward Bodden Airport, after a Little Cayman foreman of works.

In February 1968, the Cayman Islands government and LACSA reorganised Cayman Brac Airways into Cayman Airways, with the government holding 51% of the shares and LACSA holding 49%. Being technically British-owned, Cayman Airways could apply for international routes. It was awarded the Cayman-Kingston route in December 1968.

In January 1970 Cayman Airways applied for the Cayman-Miami-Cayman route.This finally came to fruition in April 1972, when the airline landed a leased LACSA BAC 1-11 in Miami-its first flight to the United States. By that year, Cayman had a staff of 30 people.

Cayman Brac was served by several companies in the 1970s that brought passengers from both the U.S. and Grand Cayman. Regular, reliable air service to the Brac was strongly promoted by the owners of the original Brac Reef Hotel, who realised that without it, the hotel rooms would not fill up. A group of about sixteen investors put up the money to start a charter service called Trans-Island Airways, using a leased DC-3, flying between Tampa/St. Petersburg and the Sister Islands. The group later obtained a permit from the Civil Aeronautics Board in Washington, D.C., that enabled them to purchase a plane for commercial use. The company operated as Red Carpet Airlines for about ten years.

In 1976, the government decided that it was time for the Cayman Islands to have its own national airline. The idea was strongly supported by "Mr. Jim" Bodden, who was then the Member Responsible for Tourism, Aviation, and Trade, and who was posthumously made Cayman's first (and up to now, only) National Hero.

In 1977 Cayman Airways became wholly owned by the Cayman Islands, and LACSA's final flight into Grand Cayman was on 30 November 1978. LACSA kept providing support in the form of mechanics and pilots until 1982. As aviation expanded, the tourism industry flourished. In 1980, Cayman Airways bought a Britten-Norman Trilander to provide inter-island service, replaced in 1987 by a Shorts 330 (locally known as "the box").

In 1981 the airline added a Hawker-Siddeley for twice-weekly flights from Miami to Cayman Brac, and replaced its two BAC 1-11s with two Boeing 727s. Two years later the runway in Cayman Brac was extended to 6,000 feet to accommodate these jets. Owen Roberts International Airport got a new terminal building in 1984-and the Concorde landed there for the first time.

In 1989, the old terminal at Cayman Brac's Gerrard-Smith Airport was replaced by a new one several hundred yards east of the original site.The same year, Cayman Airways purchased two new Boeing 737 jets to replace the 727s, and two years later, the company leased a third 737.

Although various companies have attempted to provide regularly scheduled direct air service between the U.S. and Cayman Brac, demand has never been sufficient to keep the efforts going for long.

However, with the establishment of Island Air in the early 1990s, Sister Islanders have enjoyed excellent several-times-daily service to and from Grand Cayman, where international connections continue to increase.

As the number of airline seats grew, so did the number of hotel rooms and the diversity of tourist attractions.

 

 

QUICK FACTS

Founded: 1968
Acting President : Mike Adam
Jet Service:
As the national flag carrier for the Cayman Islands, Cayman Airways flies non-stop jet service between Houston, Miami, and Tampa and Grand Cayman with connecting service to Cayman Brac and Jamaica.
Number of Employees:
320 (Cayman Islands: 244; United States: 75; Jamaica: 1)
Fleet:
2 Boeing 737-200 aircraft each with 2 Pratt & Whitney propulsion (Jet Turbine) JT8D engines and one Allied Signal auxiliary (APU) engine. Registration markings are: VP-CAL and VP-CKX, Cayman Islands' registry.
1 Boeing 737-200C aircraft with 2 Pratt & Whitney propulsion JT8D engines and one auxiliary engine. Registration marking is: VP-CYB, Cayman Islands' registry.
Recent Initiatives:
Addition of third Boeing 737-200C to fleet
Launch of Sir Turtle Rewards Frequent Flyer Club
Increased leg room onboard more than 50% on fleet by eliminating seats
Regulatory Overview:
As a multinational carrier, Cayman Airways must meet the safety regulations of three separate aviation entities - the CAA, (United Kingdom), the FAA (United States) and the CAA (Cayman Islands). Cayman Airways' crew members receive intensive training that enables them to provide leadership under any circumstance that may be encountered.
Sir Turtle Rewards: In the year 2000, Cayman Airways unveiled a new frequent flyer rewards programme that offers more benefits, privileges and rewards than ever before. There are three levels of membership, silver, gold and platinum. An agreement with United Airlines Mileage Plus programme allows Cayman Airways' Frequent Flyer participants to redeem miles on United flights as well. United Airlines' Mileage Plus members will also be allowed to use accrued miles to be put towards Cayman Islands vacations.
Airline Magazine: Horizons
Mascot/Logo: Sir Turtle. A national icon adopted from the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism's Sir Turtle logo, and slightly modified by the addition of an aviator's scarf blowing in the wind.
Addresses:
CAYMAN AIRWAYS LTD.
- Corporate Headquarters
233 Owen Roberts Drive
P.O. Box 1101 GT
Grand Cayman B.W.I.
Cayman Islands
Tel. 345-949-8200
Fax 345-949-6878

CAYMAN AIRWAYS LTD.
- US National Office
6100 Blue Lagoon Drive,
Suite 130
Miami, FL 33126
Tel. 305-266-6760
Fax 305-267-2925
For More Information
or Flight Schedules
: Contact your travel agent or Cayman Airways at 1-800-G-CAYMAN. Cayman Airways' website address is: www.caymanairways.com.

 

 

 


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Andre Quiros (C) San Jose, Costa Rica. 1998-2004
webmaster@costaricaaviation.com