In the National Assembly on Friday, the Government revealed that $484.2 million in supplemental funding for the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) was under consideration for the purchase of four planes that are over four decades old.
While Government had readily admitted that the aircraft it is looking to procure through its supplemental paper are refurbished, what was not said was how long ago they were manufactured. But in the National Assembly on Friday, the Government revealed that the aircraft are over four decades old.
Harmon was asked by Opposition parliamentarian and former Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee about the manufacturing date of the aircraft.
“These are not new aircraft. They are aircraft that have been in service and are being purchased by the company that owns them. The two (Skyvans) and the two Islanders. The Skyvans were manufactured in 1977 and the Islanders in 1976. The Islanders were (used to transport) passengers and cargo, the Skyvans were for paratrooping.”
Under further questioning from Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, Harmon assured that the planes were issued with air worthiness certificates from Brazilian and European Aviation officials.
According to the Minister, they will be further examined before Guyana even uses them.
Concerns were raised about whether the plane models were still being manufactured. Harmon noted that while they are no longer being manufactured, these models are still in use around the world and as such, sourcing spare parts will not be an issue.
During a recent post-Cabinet press briefing, Harmon had announced that Government was looking to purchase two Skyvans. In addition, the State is also looking to acquire two Islander aircraft.
When asked, Harmon noted they would serve a variety of functions. According to the Minister, these range from the aircraft performing search and rescue operations to delivering items to border troops.
It was revealed that the GDF had requested some $484.2 million for these aircraft when Government tabled supplementary estimates for Current and Capital Expenditures. Over $200 million from its 2018 capital programme was supposed to meet initial payments.
Additional sums are expected to be used to close the deals. Their request came under the Agency head of Defence and Security Support. Authorities have been frank that Guyana’s aviation capacity is in need of a boost.
At a press conference last year, Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Egbert Field, had lamented the deterioration of the Defence Force’s helicopters, noting that the situation has not been rectified for years.
“An important element of search and rescue which is a helicopter in the event of a crash, I don’t know why the GDF equipment was allowed to deteriorate to the point where they do not have a serviceable helicopter for search and rescue, which is the Bell 412 helicopter,” he had said.