Letter: Insel Air captain Robert Page is a pilot extraordinairePOSTED: 11/29/11 7:10 AM
The island experienced some terrible weather conditions on Sunday November 27. On Monday the headline in the one of the newspapers read “Weather causes dramatic scenes at PJIA on Sunday”. The article states, “Bad weather caused drama and tense moments at Princess Juliana International Airport Sunday with the pilots of major and smaller aircraft overshooting the runway, attempting multiple landings and deciding after failed attempts to divert to other destinations for safe landings. Several flights were also cancelled due to the weather, while others immediately diverted opting not to risk landing at PJIA.”
Insel Air’s 511, a DC9 MD-83, was one of those flights that landed at PJIA. Being one of the almost 100 passengers I can attest to the fact that it was an intense experience. At one point the captain notified us that we could not land on the airport due to the weather. We flew for about 15 minutes before coming in to land.
During those 15 minutes we, the passengers, looked outside and the visibility was very bad.
We only could see clouds and more clouds. We could not see either the beautiful St. Maarten Sea or land; absolutely no sense of direction.
At one point I heard my neighbors behind me “speaking to their maker” and I also had a “moment with the master”. The weather was obviously very bad, due to the behavior of the aircraft but there was not a moment where we had even the slightest impression that the captain and crew were not in full control. They were all very cool and professional.
Then suddenly we saw “Sweet St. Maarten Land.” The silence of the cabin broke out in applause and jubilation. Quickly after that we had the perfect landing with us passengers smiling and giving thanks.
As we disembarked I asked who the captain was as I wanted to personally thank him and congratulate him and his crew for a job well done. As the door of the plane opened we were welcomed by the hardworking manager Mr. Alonso Hassell and some ground personnel.
At the bottom of the stairs I was then introduced to Captain Robert Page, a humble, soft spoken Caribbean man with what I would call extraordinary skills. He was cool, very well contained and not fizzled in the least. In one word a remarkable individual.
It is such a nice feeling when we can meet our “own” with that level of skill, experience and know how. This can work very positive on our youth who needs to see their “own” in these types of positions. I would like to personally thank and commend Mr. Robert Page, his first officer, the cabin crew and Insel Air for a job well done.
In the 1970s I was trained and worked for a few years before going to study as an assistant air traffic controller at PJIA so I have an idea of the challenges involved and experience needed to land safely in that kind of weather.
Last but not least that kind of work cannot be performed without the Almighty intervening. So once again thanks to all who helped us get safe on the ground Sunday.
Former Commissioner of Tourism and Economic affairs.