Amidst concerns being expressed over procurement of four aircraft, the types of which are no longer manufactured, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon has again sought to defend the $697 million purchases.
Since Government announced its intention to buy two Islander and two Skyvan reconditioned aircraft, which are no longer being manufactured, questions have been raised on various issues, including maintenance and sourcing of parts. The Islanders will be purchased from a company in neighbouring Brazil, while the Skyvans, from Belgium, are owned by a United States-based company.
State Minister Joseph Harmon has explained that a team from the Guyana Defence Force GDF) has inspected the planes to be procured from a company in
Brazil, and has submitted positive reports on the condition of these craft.
“I can also say to you that the aircraft…were inspected, and that the team of inspectors sent back a very positive [preliminary] report about the condition of (the) aircraft, and they believe that we have a very good buy…and I have every confidence in the quality of personnel that actually inspected these aircraft and recommend them for purchase by us in Guyana,” he stated.
According to the State Minister, Guyana, like many countries around the world, already has operating similar aircraft which were manufactured sometime around 1977.
“These were aircraft that people don’t sell them when they have them… What I can say to you is that these are tried and tested aircraft all around the world. In fact, here in Guyana, there is a large fleet of that type of aircraft, and when people have them, they don’t sell them,” he said.
Asked about the lifespan of these aircraft, Minister Harmon pointed out, “These engines can be changed, they can be upgraded and all of that; so there’s no single statement that says, ‘This aircraft will run for five years, 10 years…’ Once the airframe is solid — and I can say to you the airframe is very solid — all of the other parts can be changed as you go along. So you’ll have good lifespan off these aircraft.”
Earlier this month, the National Assembly approved $484,239,000 for the GDF to make final payments for the four aircraft. The army had already identified some $213,885,000 from its 2018 capital programme to make initial payments.
Harmon, who also sits on the Defence Board, told the House’s Committee of Supply the foregoing in answer to questions from Opposition Parliamentarian and former Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee.
Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira had asked whether Government had considered procuring Twin Otter aircraft instead. In response, the State Minister explained that while the Twin Otters are as good as Islanders, the latter are more versatile, and spares are easier to source.
He had noted, too, that the GDF is better equipped to deal with these types of aircraft, while adding that the price was also a deciding factor, since a Twin Otter costs somewhere between US$2.4 million and US$4 million for a used one, and a new one is being sold at US$7 million.
The two Islanders will be used to ferry passenger and cargo, while the two Skyvans will be used for paratrooping and “troop-carrying purposes”.