US Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announced today, September 1, 2020, that more than $1.2 billion will be awarded in airport safety and infrastructure grants through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to 405 airports in 50 states and six US territories.
“This $1.2 billion federal investment will improve our nation’s airport infrastructure, enhance safety, and strengthen growth in local communities, which is especially important as the economy recovers from COVID-19,” said Chao.
The Department is awarding some 8.9M in federal grants to the following airports in the Territory of the US Virgin Islands:
$4,711,111 for Cyril E. King Airport on St Thomas to reconstruct the aircraft parking apron.
$4,148,395 for Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St Croix to purchase an emergency generator and reconstruct runway and taxiway lighting and lighting vault.
“The 434 AIP grants will fund critical airport infrastructure projects around the country,” said FAA Administrator Stephen M. Dickson.
Since January 2017, the Trump Administration delivered $13.5 billion to America’s airports to improve infrastructure and safety.
In 2020, the Administration delivered $10 billion in economic assistance to America’s airports during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Meanwhile, in has been well over 15 years that ASSI has taken over the role of regulating airports in the Virgin Islands, costing taxpayers millions of dollars that could have been used to train locals to run the regulatory side of the government department and improve the safety concerns that led to the takeover in the first place.
It was in 2004 that the then National Democratic Party (NDP) Administration was to set up a Civil Aviation Department with its new role, but suddenly it was said that there was no qualified Virgin Islander to fill the new post of Director of Civil Aviation under the new portfolio.
The same year, 2004, quite interestingly an audit was done by the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority, which claimed there were deficiencies with the Virgin Islands airports, including reported safety issues. The same things were also said about many other Overseas Territories airports by the UK report.
The UK then came up with a plan to take over many of the Overseas Territories’ Civil Aviation Departments, including the Virgin Islands’ (VI) and closed many of their Civil Aviation Departments, claiming that they wanted to help and provide a more cohesive system of civil aviation safety regulations.
With the support of many of the Overseas Territories’ governors, including the then Governor Tom T. Macan, the British set up a wholly-owned subsidiary company called Air Safety Support International (ASSI), a subsidiary company of the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority.
This company was to take over the role of Civil Aviation Departments and, according to the UK, at some point ASSI would gradually hand over the functions back to the VI, along with the other Overseas Territories affected, once they were deemed “ready to take over.”
More than 15 years later, ASSI remains firmly in control and taking millions in taxpayers money to do what can be done by locals.