Winair celebrates 50 years of safe flying

POSTED: 08/25/11 1:03 PM

St. Maarten – Windward Islands International Airways was depicted as one of the safest airlines in the world as they celebrate their 50 Anniversary without any major mishap. The airline which was established in 1963 by the pioneers George Greaux and Jose “Pipe” Dormoy with the input of businessman Chester Wathey was designed to service Saba St. Eustatius and St. Barths.
“The only minor accident with Winair was attributed to a goat on the runway of Saba,” said former Senator Ray Hassel during yesterday’s celebrations on that island. He singled out the pilots for their dedication and commitment. He mentioned that just as it is to have a village raise a child it is the same with Winair since it takes the cooperation of all to maintain Winair.
“Winair has opened the gates of opportunity, and prosperity to build this island to what it is today,” said Acting Governor of Saba Roy Smith. He indicated that even the people when they see the aircraft land commend the pilots for their dedication to the island. “He remembers the days when Jose “Pipe” Dormoy was not flying the aircraft some persons refused to travel because they only had confidence in him. He continued: “That taboo has passed and we have some pilots who for many years have proven themselves and could be deemed experts since they fly under all type of conditions.”
Since Winair started to fly to Saba, “We do not have the privilege for any other airline to service the island. We have enjoyed the service from the airline I think that we should continue with them,” said Smith.
To depend on Winair for everything that comes and goes from the island it is commendable, he said. He called on travelers to have patience with the airline even if they are sometimes unable to leave when they want to. They should be satisfied and put it off for another day. “Winair has served Saba well and we ask only that you continue to raise the level of service and the quality of the aircrafts to give Saba the service it deserves.”
Winair has been servicing the island for 48 years; its first flight was on September 18, 1963 which was at the time a “major feat.”
The first aircrafts Winair acquired were a Donnier 28 and a twin Bonanza; later the company added a second Apache aircraft and hired Jose Dormoy to assist with the flying because the flights could not be done on a “day to day” basis with one pilot. “These pilots set the trend for Winair landing on Saba, said General Manager Edwin Hodge.
He spoke of the acquisition of the first Twin Otter aircraft which became the signature for Winair.
The airline makes 500 landings each month and is keen on safety; pilots are trained rigorously in flight safety but there is always room for improvement.
The Airline was sold in 1974 to the Netherlands Antilles after the oil crisis in the early 70’s when the gas went from 15 cents to 95 cents. Winair with only four destinations transports some 150,000 passengers each year. In 2008 the airline transported 226,000 passengers and has grown “from the dark ages where it had to land with a vehicle at the end of the runway with the lights of a police car as a beacon.”
The airline has 22 pilots out of which 14 are local and the staff has increased from 50 to 123, said Hodge. “With the support from the community, and the Dutch government Winair has the potential for further growth.”
During the celebration the airline launched a pocket guide which highlights relevant information of each island destination, including hotels, scenery and restaurants.

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