[www.inewsguyana.com] – Although the critical 72 hour search phase has passed, officials of the Rescue Coordination Centre are not yet ready to call it quits in the search for the Air Services Limited Britten Islander which disappeared off air traffic control radars shortly after takeoff from the Mahdia Airstrip Sunday, December 28.
Despite several sightings by residents, three helicopters and a Cessna and Caravan aircraft conducting a systematic search of a high probability area have come up empty.
“We will continue, of course, until such time we have exhausted these possibilities. It will take a few more days,” said Zulficar Mohamed, Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority during a press conference today, Wednesday December 31 at the air traffic control tower at Timehri.
“A great deal of time and effort and thought is being put into this operation,” added Robesonn Benn, Minister of Transport. The aircraft took off from Mahdia in fine weather and its destination Karisparu was also reporting the same thing.
The search team has been concentrating on the clear flight path 10 minutes after the last contact was made with air traffic control radars, since the spot tracking technology registers a signal every ten minutes.
“It’s not a walk in the park; its hard work,” said Major Mike Charles, a veteran pilot who works on contract with the Guyana Defence Force.
Authorities said the plane was carrying construction material and was not overweight.
“The load was in keeping with (the aircraft’s) performance,” said Roy Sookhoo, who coordinates the Rescue Coordination Centre at the Command Centre at the Timehri Airport.
The pilot, 27 – year – old Nicky Persaud, married with a 3 – year – old boy, was one of the most experienced in the area working for Air Services Limited, said Chief Executive Officer Annette Arjoon-Martins.
She said he has been flying with Air Services for eight years and had clocked over 8, 000 flying hours. Arjoon-Martins said the pilot knew the area very well, and he was known to be “precise” and “detail oriented”.
She was confident that the pilot would not have ventured into an area he had concern about, or that he would have undertaken the flight at all if he had concerns.
The aircraft route was along lowlands and valleys, in order to avoid the high elevations of the Ebini and Kurungiku mountain ranges.
The pilot’s Father-in-law, Frank Singh, a veteran tourism operator, who conducts regular tours along Guyana’s jungles, has been part of the rescue team.
“We remain hopeful,” said Arjoon-Martins, noting that it is too early to say if or when the search operation would be called off.
Apart from the pilot, the plane also had on board 51-year-old David Bisnauth, a father of four. He was employed by Air Services Limited three years ago and lived in the company’s facilities at Mahdia.