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article imageFirst commercial flight from Key West to Cuba in over 50 years

By Ken Hanly     Dec 31, 2013 in Business
Key West - After more than 50 years, the first commercial flight from Key West landed in Havana Cuba. It took several years just to arrange this flight and regular air service still may be in the distant future.
After final approval from US Customs and Border protection, the nine-passenger aircraft left for Cuba about 90 minutes later, said Key West International Airport director Peter Horton. Horton also pointed out:"This is just a test run. Whether this is going to come and be a regular service I don't believe has been determined yet."
The Florida island of Key West had been given permission to resume flights to and from Cuba in October of 2011 but it took over two years to clear the first flight for take off. The operators of the charter said that it took that long to get all the approvals needed from the American and Cuban authorities. Even after clearing all those hurdles the charter is approved only to carry 10 passengers and the crew at a time.
Before the 1959 Cuban revolution there were regular flights and ferry service from Key West to Cuba. Residents would fly to Cuba for lunch and come back to Key West for dinner. Ernest Hemingway had a house in Key West as well as Havana and Ketchum, Idaho.
The trip to Cuba by the Cessna Conquest II aircraft carried nine passengers. Five of them were to participate in a "people-to-people" trip that would focus on Cuba''s culture and environment and was organized by the Florida Keys Tropical Research Ecological Exchange Institute. These exchanges were re-instituted by the US in 2011 and allow organizations to take US citizens to Cuba for educational activities that promote understanding and relations with ordinary Cubans. The group will to meet with Cuban at botanical gardens, organic farms, and cultural centers.
Carolann Sharkey of the Institute who organized the trip said: "We're doing some really meaningful things there, working with botanical gardens, scientists, researchers, all the people there to help preserve their environment and ecology,"
The mayor of Key West Craig Cates flew to Cuba with the group but only to the Havana airport terminal. Cates said: "We're 90 miles away from Cuba. We're closer to Cuba than Miami. We haven't had flights over there in 50 years. It's going to be great for the city of Key West - cultural exchange, historic exchange, to be able to go back and forth directly from Key West."
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