By Elesha George
The new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Caribbean Helicopters Limited (CHL), Tanner Jones, has said that billionaire businessman and Special Economic Envoy for Antigua and Barbuda, Calvin Ayre is forcing his company into a stalemate.
When contacted about paying more than seven months’ wages owed to CHL employees, Jones told OBSERVER media he had already spoken with the employees and that they were all happy with the arrangements made.
However, he added that the real story was how Ayre had “illegally taken the hangar back”, essentially pushing Caribbean Helicopters out so that “they [Calvin Ayre] could take over”.
Ayre, among other things, is the owner of Plot 100, where CHL leases a hangar facility for its aircraft. The company had reportedly fallen on hard times after a series of mishaps under its former CEO, Neil Dickinson.
Dickinson has reportedly left Antigua and Barbuda since relinquishing his position within the last two years. The former CEO has had to deal with allegations of theft by his company, which reportedly jeopardised the Barbuda Airways deal with the government; cocaine charges brought against one of his pilots; and of course, failure to pay wages to his then employees.
Unconfirmed reports also suggest that in August 2019, the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) had not renewed CHL’s air operating certificate due to non-payment.
When contacted on Saturday, a noticeably annoyed Dickinson did not wish to speak about monies owed or other issues plaguing the company, and instead directed OBSERVER to Jones, the new CEO.
Jones himself said he had been trying his best to get CHL back up and running, even now being involved in court proceedings, over a dispute for control of the leased property with the billionaire, who he claimed had illegally tried to break into the CHL hangar last weekend.
OBSERVER has learnt that the locks to the hangar have in fact been changed, effectively locking out the CHL workers.
Meanwhile, Minister of Public Utilities, Civil Aviation and Transportation, Sir Robin Yearwood told OBSERVER media that his ministry is having “some discussions going, on how we’re going to look at this issue. By next week we should know where we are … We’re doing our own investigations and we will be making a decision this week on this matter.”
He also confirmed problems faced by CHL, noting “he [Dickinson] has problems with ECAA, he has problems with the airport and he has problems with the Ministry”.
In fact, Sir Robin said the ministry had not been “officially notified that there is a new manager”.