Bahamas Pilot Challenge takes off

A new Bahamas Pilot Challenge has been launched for 2012-2013, drawing general aviation pilots to more of the many islands of the Bahamas starting just 50-60 miles off the Florida coast.

Pilots who document landings at 12 of the 20 Bahamas airports of entry before Nov. 30, 2013, will be eligible to win a total of 23 hotel nights at top resorts on various islands.

“The Challenge is designed to motivate pilots to explore islands they had not previously considered visiting, as well as to attract pilots new to the Bahamas,” said Neil Glazer, one of 11 “Bahamas Flying Ambassadors” in the U.S. and president of PilotMall.com. Pilot Mall, Inc. will administer the Challenge for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.

First prize is eight hotel nights including two nights on each of four islands – Grand Bahama, Bimini, Harbour Island and Cat Island – which can be enjoyed on separate trips. So can the six hotel nights (on three islands) awarded as second prize and four nights (on two islands) won as third prize. A fourth prize and a bonus prize award three- and two-night stays on one visit.

Prize nights include accommodations at some of the Bahamas’ best known out-island resorts, including the Hemingway Suite at the Bimini Big Game Club and a luxury junior suite at Harbour Island’s Valentine’s Resort. Other hotels include Bimini’s spectacular Bimini Bay Resort and the Stella Maris Resort Club on Long Island, Bahamas.

Winners will be announced in December, 2013, and will be selected at random from among those completing the 12-airport Challenge. Every pilot submitting properly validated proof of landings at 12 qualifying airports during the event will be awarded the official Bahamas Pilot Challenge T-shirt. (Those documenting landings at two such airports receive the Challenge’s official baseball cap.)

To enter, register at BahamasPilotChallenge.com. Entrants receive an official Bahamas Pilot Challenge “passport,” which must be validated by Customs at each qualifying airport, plus a Bahamas VFR Planning Chart and a Private Pilot Guide. There is no charge to enter the Challenge but registrants pay the postage cost of obtaining Challenge materials and submitting their validated “passport.” A full prize list is online, as well as are numerous tips and FAQs on flying to the Bahamas.

Among advantages for Bahamas-bound pilots: No landing fees or tie down fees at government-owned airports, no overtime Customs or Immigration fees for private flyers, and a recently restored Remote Communications Outlet (RCO) system to facilitate VHF communications. Typical of an international, over-water and ADIZ operation, a Mode C transponder, 12-inch tail numbers and Coast Guard-approved life jackets are required. There is a $25 per person departure tax leaving the islands.

The Bahamas Pilot Challenge website also offers special pilot packages and discounts. Among this season’s most offers so far are a $300 fuel credit and a $150 discount on an “Island Hop” package, both for travel through Feb. 28, 2013. Deadline for booking these offers is Oct. 15, 2012, however. See the web site for details and other offers.)

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