GCAA close to implementing advanced plane tracking system – says Director
By Jarryl Bryan
One of the prevailing criticisms of Guyana’s aviation sector has been its lack of high-tech systems like the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADSB) to keep track of planes. But the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is pushing back against suggestions that it is dragging its feet.
According to GCAA Director General Egbert Field, the authority has in fact had this technology in operation since 2015. Field noted, however, that it was limited to tracking planes flying at a certain altitude.
“I would like to inform individuals that if they check the AIP (Aeronautical Information Publication) manual, they would see that the ADSB was in operation since 2015,” Field recently expressed.
“The use of the ADSB was for flights above flight level 24,000 feet. Below, we had to put in the infrastructure.”
Field explained that this infrastructure largely includes four outlying relay stations for the ADSB technology. These stations are located at Kaieteur in Region Eight; Annai in Region Nine; Kamarang in Region Seven, and Port Kaituma in Region One.
“Work at them has been completed, and we hope to have testing started by the end of this month. That system would take the place of radar. Provided that the transponder is fitted in the aircraft, Air Traffic Control would be able to identify that aircraft as it flies. And I am told by my air navigation services that with the four stations operational, we should be able to track an aircraft right down to landing,” Field explained.
He said that experts are currently checking the stations to ensure that there is proper transmission of data. The retired Lieutenant Colonel also observed that the project would have cost the Government hundreds of millions of dollars.
Issues related to tracking planes came to the national forefront as early as 2014, when an Air Services Limited (ASL) Britten Norman Islander plane piloted by Captain Nicholas Persaud went down over the jungles of Region Eight. To this day, the plane, pilot and crew have not been found.
Since then, however, the aviation sector has faced a flurry of plane crashes. The most recent crash involved Captain Imran Khan, 41, of Essequibo Coast, Region Two, who had been attached to ASL. At the time, he was flying from Chi-Chi to Mahdia (Region Eight) when his Cessna 206 (8R-GFM) aircraft went down late last month, killing the experienced pilot.
On August 8, 2017, a single-engine Cessna aircraft piloted by Captain Dominique Waddell was taking off from the Eteringbang airstrip in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) when it crashed. The Wings Aviation plane was on a shuttling mission from Eteringbang to Ekereku when the incident occurred.
On July 25, 2017, Captain Collin Martin, a retired Guyana Defence Force Major, was piloting a Roraima Airways aircraft when it crashed, killing him almost instantly. Martin perished after the Britten-Norman Island aircraft he was operating crashed on landing at Eteringbang.
In a recent letter to the media, one operator had highlighted some of the deficiencies in the sector. CEO of Roraima Airways, Captain Gerry Gouveia, had zeroed in on problems such as the lack of effective search-and-rescue operations.
In his recommendations, Gouveia had also encouraged that aircraft be equipped with the Automatic Dependent Broadcast Surveillance (ADBS) tracking systems. He urged that the ADSB systems be fast tracked to completion and is always operational and functioning.
Gouveia recommended that spot trackers be installed on every aircraft operating in Guyana; and that each local airline must have the ability to track and flight follow their aircraft moment by moment.
He also urged that the GCAA mandate the use of high-end moving map Global Positioning System (GPS) in every plane. He also recommended pilots be equipped with a secondary back up GPS.
“Mandate that local pilots are trained and competent to use the GPS systems,” Gouveia advised. “Mandate that pilots are trained, and must understand the safety accuracy checks of the GPS prior to each flight, using the ground based navigational systems at the CJIA.
“Establish flight corridors for every route into the hinterland runways using agreed- on GPS waypoints. Establish procedures using GPS waypoints to assist pilots in maintaining stabilized flight and stabilized approaches to all runways,” Gouveia had added.