The general manager departs as a multi-million-dollar upgrade begins at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA).
On the same day that Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister Hon Dr Clarice Modeste-Curwen celebrated 36 years since the airport opened and attended an official sod-turning to mark the upgrade financed by a $67.7 million (US) loan, she also confirmed the resignation of MBIA general manager Wendy Francette-Williams.
Speaking on a local radio call-in programme on Wednesday, the Minister said Mrs Francette-Williams submitted her resignation with effect October 31. The Minister also announced an investigation is underway that caused a temporary change in the category status for Fire Rescue capabilities at the MBIA.
On October 13, the Grenada Airports Authority (GAA) issued a statement in which the general manager blamed “shipping delays’ in firefighting supplies that resulted in the cancellation of one Virgin Atlantic and two British Airways flights in October.
“I cannot pretend that what happened did not impact us seriously. It is very serious, especially it couldn’t have happened at a worse time when the planes are ready to come and we’ve been waiting quite a long time. However, suffice to say, we have an obligation to investigate the issue and we’re doing that. We also have an obligation to make changes if the investigation shows that changes are required to improve,” the Minister stated.
Mrs Francette-Williams joined the MBIA in 2013, having previously been employed at the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago. She was appointed Chief Executive Officer at the time, but, more recently, has been referred to as general manager. As she departs MBIA, much of what she managed is about to undergo major changes. The Air traffic management system, which the Minister describes as “very outdated” with obsolete parts, will be replaced.
The runway will be resurfaced, which has not been done in more than 15 years, while the lighting system will be changed to an energy-efficient system. Construction works include a turning bay for larger aircraft, a two-way apron service lane, two passenger boarding bridges to access larger planes and a canopy cover for passenger awaiting flights.
The project also includes construction of an Emergency Operations Centre and new administrative offices.
As the investigation commences into the details as to why the critical firefighting supplies for the larger planes were not available when needed, Minister Modeste-Curwen noted that the MBIA “sustains itself financially; the team has done fabulously in terms of financing the day to day operations of the airport.”
The Runwaygirl network, an aviation news services, reported that under Francette Williams’ leadership, the GAA’s operating profit jumped 254.7% and its net surplus soared 419.7% in the 2014/15 financial year, compared to the 2011/13 period.
Minister Modeste-Curwen said Mrs Joan Gilbert, who previously worked at the airport, will act as general manager “as we sort things out,” adding “we don’t want to be throwing blame.”
On October 22, the GAA advises that MBIA status returned to Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Services Category 9 as the delayed shipment of firefighting supplies had arrived.