PORT OF SPAIN –– Calls are being made to rename the Piarco International Airport to the Patrick Augustus Manning International Airport in honour of this country’s late prime minister for his keen interest in civil aviation.
Eleven Caribbean countries, as well as Tobago, have their airports named after past prime ministers.
Director General of the T&T Civil Aviation Authority (T&TCAA) Ramesh Lutchmedial said it was a fitting gesture since Manning had a passion for aviation.
Also making the call was retired Major General Ralph Brown, a former chairman of the T&TCAA, who said civil aviation affairs transformed under Manning’s leadership.
Both men said Trinidad was the only Caricom country that did not have its airport named after a prime minister.
Lutchmedial, who was made the first director general of the T&TCAA by Manning said, “Mr Manning was a friend and we shared a common passion for aviation.”
Lutchmedial recalled in January 2010 when a 7.0 earthquake flattened parts of Haiti, he was at the time in Port-au-Prince and escaped death.
“Mr Manning enquired about my safety and met with me when I returned to Trinidad.”
He remembered Manning as a great aviation enthusiast who made a tremendous contribution to the development of the local aviation industry.
He said it was Manning who commissioned the construction of the T&T Civil Aviation Complex in Piarco, the replacement of all navigational aids for Piarco and Tobago with modern state-of-the-art equipment and the construction of a modern executive jet terminal at Piarco.
Lutchmedial said it was during Manning’s tenure that this country was able to set up the Trinidad and Tobago Aviation Safety Oversight System to meet the highest safety standards prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation enabling T&T to gain the United States’ FAA Category One status in 2005.
In that year, Manning was quoted as saying: “No one can underestimate the importance of a properly functioning civil aviation system within any country in providing transportation linkages to key financial and commercial centres of the world.”
Meanwhile, Brown said many people did not know that Manning provided financial assistance to Caricom countries for civil aviation.
He said he was in full support of the recommendation to rename the airport after Manning because of his involvement in the aviation industry.
“I don’t know how many people knew it but he had very keen interest in civil aviation matters. I support the recommendation that the airport should be named after him. I know Dr [Eric] Williams did not want any recognition but when you look at it, all the different airports in the region are named after former prime ministers.
“I served as chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority during Mr Manning’s term as prime minister and civil aviation was transformed under his leadership.”
He said up to the time it was completed in 2011, the area control centre stood as a beacon in the western hemisphere with the most modern and state-of-the-art equipment. He said close to $500 million was spent on that project.
Brown also said, Manning authorised significant financial assistance to Caricom countries in terms of their civil aviation capacity. He said islands such as Barbados, St Lucia and Dominica benefited.
“Mr Manning had a direct involvement in civil aviation,” Brown added.