Where have you been? What have you seen?
By Ebbie 2003
Thought you may all be interested in my experience today in Tobago.; this is a bit of a rant so brace yourself.

Flew down this morning from Barbados for a couple of days - uneventful flight - never been to Tobago before and likely never will again. The place seems to tollerate it's immigration and customs being in the thrall of a commercial operator the extent of channelling unsuspecting visitors to that operator with suprious claims of a legal requirement and blatant abuse of their authority to punish those who fail to open their wallets.

Landed, taxi to the assigned parking spot "taxi west and park on stand 7 facing east" - no problem.

Secured the airplane - did my usual chocking but leaving it unlocked with the keys in it (figure if someone wants to steal stuff they will but why pay for the repairs to the doors too).

Walk over to the terminal - see the immigration lady "who is your agent/handler" she asks - "I don't have one and don't need one" says I " I have all my decs etc. I just need to give them to port health, immigration and customs.

"No, you must have a handling agent" shes says - 'Don't think so, but if that's the law fair enough - just show it to me", "wait outside," she says.

Now appear a whole gaggle of people in uniforms, high viz vests, guns and some very fetching headgear (the Caribbean generally does know how to do a well-made uniform).

'So what's they problem they" ask looming over me - "they say I have to have an agent and I neither need nor want one" - "oh, you have to it's the law" - "ok" says I, "show it to me - coz I don't think there is such a law"

After about 40 minutes out comes the senior immigration lady who very quickly reads an extract from the law - I thought I heard something in what she said that did not make it compulsory - she clearly heard it too - "gissa look" says I, reaching for the book (wooden covers - very unusual) - "don't touch my book" says she, "I just want to read it, you read it very fast and I didn't hear part of it" (yes, I am a wrinkly who likes to sit close to unsilenced six litre engines - currently sporting a large while Santa Claus beard, so yup, I look like someone with not brilliant hearing) - she retreats muttering something about "you ain't ginne touch my book", never to be seen again.

"OK" says I "I'll just **** off back to Barbados and spend my money there" - "how you gonna do that?" asks Mr. PASman - "I will get in it start the engine and fly away" says I - "you can't do that unless you are cleared by immigration, we will seize your airplane" - ok says I " I will call the police", "why you going to do that" asks one tall, armed, lady in a police looking uniform - "because I am being held against my will, what's the number of the police" - "I am the police" she says, "really?" I say, "well arrest these people who will not let me go about my business", "you could get arrested," she says, "Ok, am I under arrest?" I ask, "no", "am I being detained?, "no", "so OK, I can leave then?" - odd thing she looks like police, she is armed but the high viz says 'something security' - so I ask "are you the police?" ,"no she replies" I say "OK call the police or give me the number and I will call them". Now here's the weird thing - not sure if at this point they were just saying something, anything, to sustain the argument "the police are not allowed on to the airport" - seemed rather odd, surely cannot be true.

Two hours later, after a whole series of this being repeated with me continually saying "show me the law and I will pay it" - me saying even if you do have such a law (would be odd if it is the only place in the Caribbean that does - I fly all over hand my documents all done in 10 minutes in Martinique you just put a gen dec in a series of mail boxes (10 seconds max), Bequia, Canouan, St Lucia, Tortola etc etc. - here the exception. I now have eight, yes, eight people looming over me all insisting that it is the law that I must have an agent - they know this because the guy who is going to take the US$250 for having me hand him the 5 sheets of 100% completed paper and handing them to the person standing next to me told them so. So I say, look I have dealt with PAS as shipping agents for an boat (actual a WIG boat) - they told me it needed a special pallat to ship it $27,000 it cost me to ship it - can it not be deck cargo I had asked - nope they said and so I paid the $15,000 extra for the pallat. When it got here - where's the pallat I asked - it came as deck cargo they said - oh, I think I will get the $15,000 back - I ask - no I am told "we got it and we keeping it - what are you going to do about it" - yes, was I willing to drop a six figure sum on lawyers to maybe one day get it back, of course not (that was September 2013 PAS in the boat sense is Pacific, Atlantic Services). Then I went down to Trinidad, down on the Friday morning (Friday the 13th - should have known something would be a problem!) back on the Saturday afternoon, simple, same year 2013, firms Christmas dinner - used the handing (I did not connect them as being the same firm - they are called Piarco Air Services - PAS! - did not join the dots until I saw the logo). Anyway - over I go to the airport just before 2pm, they were to have refuelled for me (cheapie fuel in T&T!), sorted my decs, fees etc. - no one there, I mean empty, we searched for 30 minutes - PAS have/had an office on the other side of the airport that did check in services for airlines - a lady there tracked down the guy who was on duty - spoke to him and said "we'll be there in 15 minutes" - 12 minutes later we are there - no guy, we found someone form another firm and said we just spoke with him - said he saw the guy on his cell phone then hang up, nip into the PAS office grab his bag and leave. So fook'd - another night of hotel and car hire in Trindad - next morning, the Sunday, back I go - no apologies, the guy was there to give me a bill of US$250 for the handling, no apologies, then I found the airplanes wasn't fuelled as had been agreed - so had to hand drag it to thr pumps and pump it myself - told him I was not going to pay the bill, I would pay $100 for the first day, nothing for the leaving and nothing for the fuelling so knocked of $50 - "whatch gonna do about it?".Never went back to T&T - wrote to both Piacro and Crown Point asking is handling compulsory - got no reply - so I took that to mean no.

Decided to give Tobago a go - could no believe it when PAS was there and pulling their usual stunts - seems that they have the whole of the airport the security, immigration, customs etc etc. convinced that the use of their services is compulsory "it is the law". There was/is one exception - the port health officers - they actually took my decs (all five needed) but when Mr. PASman turned up he cornered them and took all five decs from them - possession it seems it 9/10th of what passes for law at Crown Point - I said very clearly I had not given him my documents and I didn't want him touching them.

Now after more than two hours of "it is the law"

A new tack - you have to move your airplane - I put it where the tower instructed me "on stand 7 facing east" - the tower is the authority not you Mr. PASman, but it's unlocked I have no problem with you moving it or I can do so once we have sorted this out, if we don't it won't be an issue as I will be leaving in it. He then goes on to say that he will impound it - some scuzzy individual form a commercial firm threatend to seize my airplane, would like to have seen him try.

Enter a new player - no names - but my guess it the immigration director or some other big up. I say a big up as he clearly trumped the guy who had seemed to be orchestrating the whole thing the local PAS rep who I refer to as Mr. PASman (knew who he was as his high viz had PAS emblazoned across it).

He says - 'no, it is not compulsory you can act as your own agent', which is what I had been saying all along. Mr. PASman has now 'faded' into the background.

So I say OK I will now go move the airplane to the west of stand 7 - now the whole tack changes - no we don't want you to move it - ok so I go sit back down - I did say look you just lost the argument so I know you will be seeking petty revenge - but go ahead, if it gets to the point where I don't like it I will pay my fees (landing, departure tax etc) and fly back home.

They now decide yes, they would like me to move it - I go and do so - by now we are over three hours.

I get back - the sensible guy who was having none of the "it's the law" stuff had left - Mr, PASman is back in the thick of the action, now the next round - the immigration wanted a non-specific document I would have been given my Barbados immigration when I left - seem flying out of here for over six years, never heard of, seen or ever had requested any such document. "So how we know you come from Barbados today?" she asked - well the eAPIS, the Ayscuda and the ICAO flight plan should be proof and I have a stamped copy of the flight plan - and if you need more proof speak to the tower or Piarco radar, they followed me all the way down on their scopes. 30 minutes later I reached my 'burn time' when I had to leave in order to make Barbados and my alternate before dark (flying VFR no night allowed), do went into their office to say I have to go - oddly they were photocopying every single page of our passports - they gave them back. I said ok who do I pay - no charges they said - result - walked out to the airplane - called the tower to give a verbal flight plan - they gave a number to call - they said we cannot take international flight planes over the phone - but when I said what was happening they did so (a brilliant service) in the air much faster than expected and arrived back ok. Oddly, on the way back the controller started giving us weird vectors and kept us high - not until she gave a vector to "intercept the ILS" did I realise what was going on - so said "I'm VFR and on this heading and height you are sending me into thick clouds", the next instruction was pretty much "ok come land" (you can see the weird vectors on the attached tracks) - so there I was playing dodgems with two Tompson (TOMJETS) full of holidaymakers, at 3,000ft with loads of cloud - an interesting end to a bizarre day.

The tracks are on Pprune, couldn't get them to attach here.

The whole point of this is keep away from Trinidad and Tobago until someone gets up the courage to deal with the pernicious influence of PAS.

I have flown all over the Caribbean from Florida down and have never had an experience like this - I will be writing to government and the airport authorities but, as with my previous communications, I am not expecting a reply.

Post Script - when I got back to Barbados I dropped off my Gen Decs- port health, immigration and customs - total time about 5 minutes all without the aid of an "agent/handler" and I asked the customs about this mysterious documents they should have given me - they know nothing about such a document - but it seems neither did the immigration/customs on Tobago until Mr. PASman told them "you always get one from Barbados", oddly the one official stamped document I did have, the flight plan stamped by the tower was no sufficient - funny that.

So better we spend our money here rather than T&T it seems.

The holding us without justification will be the subject of discussions with my attorney on Monday