LOCAL AVIATION PIONEERS LAUDED ON JULY 4TH

The content originally appeared on: The Anguillian Newspaper

Awardees and Participants

As a tribute in honour of the late Captain Clayton Lloyd, his birthday was observed with a special memorial programme on Monday, July 4th, at Freedom Park on the outskirts of the Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport. Capt. Lloyd established a fledgling air transport business in 1964, through his Valley Air Service company. Had he been alive today, he would have turned eighty on Monday.The July 4th memorial event was spearheaded by local aviation enthusiast, Mr. Cardigan Gumbs, who had been a key employee of Valley Air Service. The MC for the programme was Mr. Hulio “Ponto” Carty, who gave a passionate account of his memories of Valley Air Service and the genuine, admirable qualities of Capt. Lloyd.

Also present was Capt. Lloyd’s daughter Lisa, and her son Clayton Jr., who intends to someday “fill his granddad’s shoes”. Other airport service personnel of yesteryear were in attendance, as well, and they were recognised for their loyal work through the presentation of special service awards.

Painting of the late Captain Clayton Lloyd

Speaking to those gathered, Cardigan gave an extensive overview of the operations of Valley Air Service. In part, he said: “Today we are here to remember Captain Clayton Lloyd. Clayton started flying as a young man, when there were not many black, local pilots in the region. But Clayton made it happen for Anguilla. He started out with a Piper Aztec and later added other planes to his fleet, such as the Navajo, the Islander, and the Beachcraft King Air.” Though he is not a pilot, Cardigan said that he had learnt much from Clayton, who taught him all he knew about aeroplanes.

Also making remarks at the event was former Honourable Premier, Mr. Victor Banks: “Anguilla was not built by anybody in any particular field alone,” he said. “Anguilla was built by all kinds of people. Certainly, this is true in the field of local aviation – air transportation between Anguilla, the various islands, and the rest of the world.“This kind of transportation was critical for Anguillians in that challenging period of our existence. Capt. Clayton Lloyd, Capt. Michael Hughes and Capt. Maurice Connor, and those who followed, all contributed in making transportation between Anguilla and the rest of the region convenient.”The aviation industry in Anguilla has had a unique origin. Along with Capt. Lloyd, in the 1960s, two other Anguillian nationals, namely Michael Hughes and Maurice Connor joined the Valley Air Service team. Together, the three had set the stage for a thriving industry which had, for many years, shown much promise.

Capt. Lloyd had ambitiously set out to develop the local air transportation sector as a fledgling regional air service. However, unfortunately, the growth of Anguilla’s indigenous aviation was stunted following the tragic departure of Captain Lloyd who lost his life, along with seven passengers, in an untimely crash in St. Maarten on Christmas Eve 1977.Also commenting at the memorial event was Mr. Pieter Carter who had worked with Valley Air Service at the Princess Juliana Airport in St. Maarten. He spoke of his many experiences in the operations there and, in particular, the role the office there played in coordinating travel of US passengers on Eastern Airlines en route to Anguilla via St. Maarten.

Speaking, as well, was Capt. Lesley Lloyd, a cousin of Capt. Clayton. He told of the influence that Capt. Clayton had on him, thus inspiring him to also pursue the profession of an airman. He said that currently he is working with a team in preparing a documentary on aviation in Anguilla, which would educate our people as regards the history of air travel between Anguilla and the region.

There were many Anguillian pilots who became fascinated by flying, and followed in the footsteps of Clayton, Michael and Maurice. Many of those pilots are deceased today. Some died from natural causes, but a large number of them died tragically while at the controls of their craft. At Monday’s event, a moment of silence was observed in honour of the deceased airmen.