The Bandeirante (or 'Bandit'), a civil transport airplane in Grenada, was an EMB-110P 18 passenger, twin-engine turboprop. This regional commuter airplane was manufactured in Brazil by EMBRAER (or Empresa Brasilera de Aeronáutica SA). Bandeirante is Portuguese for Pioneer, or Soldier of Fortune.
The People's Revolutionary Government was assured on 30 December 1980 by telex from the Embassy of Brazil in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad approving the "financing offered to the Government of Grenada to purchase a 'Bandeirante' aircraft."
It is unclear whether the financing of the purchase of the plane was made by another party, or that the wording means Grenada proposed the financing, or that the Bandeirante was under Lease from LIAT. Unsubstantiated information is that a fraternal government purchased the Bandeirante for 4.2 million dollars; another source says between 2-8 million dollars. It is not clear that the People's Revolutionary Government assumed the terms of the loan from the Banco do Brasil.
The negotiation delegation was headed by Lyden J. Ramdhanny, a member of the PRG Council [Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation], and Mr. Terry Moore, an economist from the Ministry of Planning of the PRG. Talks included several visits to Brazil, and Hughes reports that Selwyn Strachan and Bernard Coard arranged a letter of credit.
The December 1980 telex reads:
THE EMBASSY OF BRAZIL PRESENTS ITS COMPLIMENTS TO THE MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS OF GRENADA AND HAS THE HONOUR TO INFORM THAT CACEX (FOREIGN TRADE BOARD) OF THE BANCO DE BRASIL HAS APPROVED THE FINANCING OFFERED TO THE GOVERNMENT OF GRENADA TO PURCHASE A 'BANDEIRANTE' AIRCRAFT. THIS FINANCING BEARS INTEREST AT A RATE OF 7˝ PERCENT, AND IS REPAYABLE WITHIN A SEVEN-YEAR TERM. THE FINANCING CONDITIONS INCLUDE A PROVISION STIPULATING A GUARANTEE BY THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE OF GRENADA, IN ADDITION TO THAT OFFERED BY THE PURCHASERS.
THE AGREEMENT FOR PURCHASING THE AIRCRAFT HAS ALREADY BEEN FORWARDED TO SAINT GEORGE'S, SO THAT THE GRENADIAN AUTHORITIES CAN CONSIDER IT AND SIGN IT, IF THE FINANCING CONDITIONS ARE ACCEPTABLE TO THEM.
Example of the 'Bandeirante EMB-110P1
Photo courtesy of Peter Wills, ©1981
1st flight of Bandeirante EMB-110,
Pearls Airport, February-March 1981
Marked "LIAT The Caribbean Airline/Grenada"
People understood the new plane was to be chartered by LIAT, but on 23 December 1980, shortly before the financing purchase approval, LIAT's Managing Director communicated to Lyden Ramdhanny that regretfully LIAT could not accept the proposed lease of the Bandeirante plane at that time.
LIAT's then Managing Director said that
it was hoped to have the aircraft based in Grenada and, for reasons related to the economics of the operation, to crew it with Inter Island Air crews. It was also decided that the aircraft would be operated with single pilot crews.
The correspondence went on to say that
the accredited Representative of the Leeward Islands Air Line Pilots' Association have made it clear that the Association is opposed to the above arrangements in so far as the crewing of the Bandeirante aircraft is concerned.
Consequently, the proposed lease was postponed
until such time as satisfactory arrangements for the crewing of the aircraft have been agreed to by all concerned.
Maurice Bishop publicly announced the "purchase" of the Bandeirante 26 January 1981. The purpose for the acquisition of the new plane, was to enable an air transport run between Barbados and Grenada and Trinidad. LIAT had not been flying into Pearl's Airport from Barbados at night, leaving travelers to Grenada no choice but to overnight in Barbados.
Later in a list of accomplishments in a Government Information Service [GIS] paper titled "People's Power Has Meant a Lot for the People of Grenada March 1979-March 1981", among many entries is
$4.1 million airplane purchased by PRG to fly the Caribbean route.
On 3 August 1982, in a communication from Ramdhanny, then Deputy Minister of Finance, to LIAT Chairman in St. John's, Antigua, the Grenada government was dissatisfied over the manner in which LIAT's Lease for the Bandeirante Aircraft was terminated. A memo of 24 August 1982 from Ramdhanny to Cabinet worked out losses for a Bandeirante flight to Carriacou, plus the cost of extending the Carriacou airstrip to 3,000 feet. In another memo to the Cabinet Secretary of 27 September 1982, Ramdhanny informed the Board of LIAT revoked their previous decision to terminate the Lease. The Cabinet was also 'requested to direct what action should be taken re the Proposal for the purchase of an Islander Aircraft which was previously submitted to Cabinet."
What happened to this aircraft remains speculative. Perhaps a lease was terminated. Perhaps the lease was for a second Bandeirante. If [Government Information Service] GIS announced a purchase of a $4.1 million airplane purchased by PRG to fly the Caribbean route in the period between March 1979-March 1981, the dates sppear to conflict with the late 1982 decisions above.
If Grenada's sole Bandeirante was sold in 1983, as unconfirmed, below is an example of specs and pricing quoted from one website on the internet for a similar airplane for sale in 2005:
1979 Embraer Bandeirante 110-P1, S/N 215 5,220/4,755 Hrs. SMOH, 6016/5340 CSOH, 195/2,189 Hrs. SPOH, King Silver Crown, FM Immunity, Trimble TNL-2000 GPS, King KWX 50/60 Radar, Cabin Stereo, Asking [US] $595,000.
THE BANDEIRANTE SALE OR USE - The Plot Thickens
Alister Hughes reports in 9 Aug 1986 Caribbean Newsletter that the Bandeirante was being used by Grenada Airways. The information came on 8 Aug 1986 following a question by Opposition Senator A.O. Forsythe. Senator Norton Noel, who was leader of government business in the Senate said, "as of June 1986 there is an amount of EC$1,378,643 owing on the purchase" made by the People's Revolutionary Government.
Nevertheless, by the 20 September 1986 issue of the Caribbean Newsletter, Hughes reported that on 12 September Noel responded to another question by Forsythe. Hughes writes:
Senator Noel said the aircraft was sold for EC$400,000, but was unable to say what the PRG had paid for it.
In a front page article from The Grenadian Voice of 30 January, 1988, the main part of the story concerns whether or not the Grenadian Government owns Grenada Airways.
The cast of characters includes Hon. George McGuire, Minister of Education, Civil Aviation and "other things." [WEBMASTER COMMENT: not journalism at its best here with 'other things' in this unsigned article]. Others include Dr. Keith Mitchell, Minister of Aviation, lawyer E.C. Wilkinson and Grenada Airways promoter Fayez Chehab.
Evidently, in three documents, it looked to others as if the Government of Grenada owned Grenada Airways and the Bandeirante. Both Mitchell and McGuire, according to the Voice article, admitted errors publicly for their part involving the documents' contention or implication of ownership.
The key part to this post is Dr. McGuire being "particularly interested in pursuing the matter of the sale of the Bandeirante airplane." A further quote from The Grenadian Voice, 30 January, 1988:
Stating that the government never legally owned the airline and cannot be held capable for claims against it because of the letters, McGuire revealed to Grenadian Voice that he had received news this week [of 30 January 1988] that claims filed against the government in Miami, by the former chief executive and promoter of the airline, Fayez Chehab, had been thrown out of court. Chehab had filed various claims against the Grenada Government totaling more than US$50 million, but left behind him a trail of debts with the Bandeirante unaccounted for.
Lebanese-born Chehab of American Falcon was sued August 2005 in U.S. Federal District Court for violation of Racketeering and Conspiracy laws "RICO" in a 21-count lawsuit. By the way, a close name, but not exact, Falcon Internacional S.A., may have sold or offered to sell Maurice Bishop a replacement airplane for his Piper Cheyenne.
A fuller story of Grenada Airways, Mr. L'Emir Fayez Chehab, Leeward Island Air Transportation (LIAT), the United States firm of Groupe Internationale du Transport et Industrie Petrolier (GITIP) and the Government of Grenada agreements, loan financing and the Boeing 707 jets is waiting to be written; most likely not written.
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