…NTC says Indigenous communities would be severely affected
BY LAKHRAM BHAGIRAT
The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) on Wednesday ordered that all domestic shuttle operations be suspended until operators can provide Standard Operational Manuals and other documents showing how they conduct their operations. These documents would have to be reviewed and approved by the GCAA before they can resume their operations.
This move comes in light of the three recent crashes in the local aviation sector
resulting in the deaths of two pilots. All of the planes crashed while on shuttle operations. The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority met with domestic operators early Wednesday morning and Director General, Egbert Field, noted that the decision to suspend shuttling did not go down “too good” with the operators.
“We found that there is a common thread running through these accidents, this is not the findings of an investigation… that common thread running through all three incidents is shuttle operations. As you are aware, all three of those accidents took place during shuttle operations,” he said.
He noted that the decision is one that is necessary, since shuttle operations have expanded over the years and this is the first time it is going to be fully regularised. The GCAA boss acknowledged the impact the decision would have on the mining industry, as well as some Indigenous communities.
No specific period was given for the ban to be lifted, but Fields said he is hopeful the operators would submit their documents in a timely fashion. He added that some indicated that they were in the process of compiling those documents and would be submitting them today or tomorrow.
He told a press conference the GCAA would match them against International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) documents and regulations following which inspectors would conduct physical checks at the locations before approving them.
He added that the documentation provided by air operators, prior to gaining licences to operate, acts as a contract between the Civil Aviation Authority and the operator.
“The Authority has also taken further steps to increase its surveillance of air operators by conducting more ramp inspections of flights going out. You will find at Ogle we have an office which will be populated everyday with our inspectors out there,” he informed.
The GCAA Director also said they would have to formulate a plan to actively monitor the shuttle operations in the future, noting that this now puts a strain on the human resources of the Authority.
In addition to increased monitoring, the GCAA is also seeking to collaborate with Police and soldiers in the interior for them to look out for shuttle flights during the suspension period. He explained that all flights across Guyana must be reported to Air Traffic Control and if there are flights that have not been reported then those flights could be considered illegal and the pilot and the airline could face sanctions. He added that if any operator or pilot is found violating the suspension, then there would be adverse consequences resulting in suspension of the pilot’s licence or the Air Operators Certification revoked.
When asked whether the GCAA engaged the mining organisations prior to making the decision, the Director General said they were not but noted that the decision would be communicated to them.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) Joel Fredericks said the Indigenous community would be severely impacted by the ban since most of them depend solely on shuttles for their goods.
“Villages like Chenapau depend solely on shuttles and with school opening on Monday, the children would be affected since some of them are yet to get school supplies… we hope they reconsider this ban so that we can get some normalcy,” Fredericks said. Shuttle operations allow miners and other businesspersons to transport goods and fuel to various locations within the interior by air. The Director General of the GCAA posited that while this type of operation is important to the development of Guyana, it has proven to be very risky.
Captain Imran Khan, 41, of Essequibo Coast, Region Two had been attached to Air Services Limited (ASL), and was flying from Chi-Chi to Mahdia when the Cessna 206 (8R-GFM) aircraft went down on Sunday.
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.