An extract from The Aviation Law Review, 8th Edition

Licensing of operations

i Licensed activities

All commercial air transport operations (scheduled or non-scheduled) must obtain approval for an air operator certificate (AOC) from the Authority. Any proposed operator wishing to obtain an AOC must submit an application (1) in the form and manner prescribed by the Authority; and (2) containing any information the Authority requires the applicant to submit.

Each AOC applicant must submit an application within at least 90 days prior to the date of intended operation. An AOC is usually valid for a period of 12 calendar months.

The renewal for an AOC should be made within at least 30 days of the expiration of the operator's current AOC. The criteria for renewal are as follows: (1) in the form and manner prescribed by the Authority; and (2) containing any information the Authority requires the applicant to submit.

Prior to renewal, the Authority shall conduct a risk assessment of the AOC holder's continued compliance with the certification standards for an AOC applicable to the type and complexity of the operations and ensure that there are no outstanding safety concerns at the time of renewal.

All commercial licensing requirements are set out in Schedule 12 of the Regulations.

The certification process for air taxi operators is the same as that for all other AOC applicants.

ii Ownership rules

The Authority may issue an AOC if, after an investigation, it finds that the applicant:

  1. is a citizen of the Bahamas;
  2. has its principal place of business and registered office, if any, located in the Bahamas;
  3. meets the applicable regulations and standards for the holder of an AOC;
  4. is properly and adequately equipped for safe operations in commercial air transport and maintenance of the aircraft;
  5. has paid the cost recovery fee required; and
  6. holds the economic authority issued by the Bahamas under the Civil Aviation Act.

In the event the applicant is a body incorporated under the laws of the Bahamas, it must be substantially owned and effectively controlled by nationals of the Bahamas.

In the Bahamas, the ownership of any business is customarily reserved for Bahamians. However, certain business activities such as aviation may be partially foreign-owned with the prior approval of the National Economic Council (NEC). The NEC will carefully consider any such application from the non-Bahamian and may grant approval subject to conditions, for example, the employment of Bahamians, how many aircraft may be operated, or the granting of work permits for any required non-Bahamian personnel.

Each AOC applicant, whether Bahamian or non-Bahamian, who is engaged in commercial air transport in the Bahamas, by law requires economic authority from the Authority. The air operator economic authorisation permits air operators to advertise flight services and conduct business in the Bahamas for the purpose of transporting passengers and property by air, for remuneration, hire or other valuable consideration. During the processing of this application, the Authority will also determine whether the individual or company who makes the application is economically capable of supporting the proposed operations.

iii Foreign carriers

There is no prohibition on foreign carriers operating to and from the Bahamas. The Regulations, however, set out the requirements for the licensing of foreign carriers in the Bahamas, which must conform with ICAO standards. These requirements are:

  1. a foreign air operator shall not operate in the Bahamas unless it holds operations specifications issued to it by the Authority;
  2. where an air operator wishes to apply to operate in the Bahamas it shall make such application to the Authority in the form and manner prescribed by the Authority;
  3. an application for operations specifications, shall be accompanied by:
    • a copy of a valid AOC and supporting authorisations issued by the state of the operator;
    • a copy of any equivalent operations specifications issued by the state of the operator for any demonstrating approvals to be used while conducting operations in the Bahamas;
    • a copy of the licence or authorisation granted to the air operator by the state of the operator to conduct commercial air transport to and from the Bahamas;
    • a copy of the approval page for a minimum equipment list approved by the state of the operator for each aircraft type intended to be operated in the Bahamas;
    • a representative copy of a certificate of registration issued in the state of registry for the aircraft types proposed to be operated in the Bahamas;
    • a copy of a document identifying the maintenance that is required to be carried out for aircraft while they are operated in the Bahamas;
    • a copy of the maintenance contract between the air operator and the approved maintenance organisation certificate approved by the state of registry to conduct the maintenance while in the Bahamas;
    • a copy of any lease agreements, if the aircraft is not owned by foreign air carrier;
    • a proposed aircraft operator security programme, for the approval of the Authority; and
    • any other document the Authority considers necessary to ensure that the intended operations will be conducted safely; and
  4. an applicant under this Schedule shall apply for the initial issue of foreign air operator operations specifications at least 15 days before the date of commencement of intended operation, although it would be more prudent to allow more time for the application process.

Additionally, the Authority will issue operations specifications to a foreign air carrier to conduct commercial air operations in the Bahamas, only if the Authority is satisfied that the air operator:

  1. has a valid AOC issued by the state of the operator;
  2. has an aircraft operator security programme approved by the state of the operator and the Bahamas for the operations intended;
  3. meets the applicable standards and recommended practices for commercial air transport by the ICAO for:
    • aeroplanes, Annex 6, Part 1; or
    • helicopters, Annex 6, Part 3;
  4. meets the standards contained in applicable Annexes to the Chicago Convention for the operation to be conducted; and
  5. has sufficient financial resources to conduct safe operations.