Minister Edghill has been inappropriately advised – Aircraft Owners

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Statement from the Aircraft Owners Association of Guyana 

The Aircraft Owners Association of Guyana (AOAG) is concerned that two (2) aircraft incidents occurred, the first on Wednesday (July 14, 2021) on the Eteringbang runway and another on Thursday (July 15, 2021) on the Kamarang runway.

The Association expects that the established procedure for aircraft accident investigation to have been implemented and in progress and for appropriate action to be taken accordingly.

The Association is, however, shocked at the reported intervention and public statements made in the press on the matter on Friday, July 16, 2021, issued through the Department of Public Information, in which the Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill, is reported as having “ordered that the operators be served with notices of suspension with immediate effect”.

The Association can only conclude that the Minister has been inappropriately advised on this matter in the absence of the Director General, Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Lt Col (Ret’d) Egbert Field, who was on leave at the time.

The Association has also observed that the Minister was reported as expressing his concern on mercury being carried on board of one of these aircraft stating that “the aviation service was not authorised to transport” this cargo, when, in fact, all the major aircraft operators are certified to carry dangerous goods like mercury, gasoline and diesel, and undergo a rigorous process to be qualified to do so.

In the circumstances, the Association must point out for the benefit of the travelling public, that all commercial aircraft operations in Guyana are rigidly regulated and required to meet extremely high standards both in regard to pilot training and qualification and aircraft maintenance in order to obtain an Aircraft Operators Certificate (AOC).

Guyana’s aviation industry, in fact, enjoys a record for one of the highest safety ratings in the Caribbean region, while operating out of the busiest airport in the region and in an extremely challenging and hostile hinterland aviation environment with minimum infrastructural support.

We are extremely proud that our industry is evidentially, statistically, the safest it has been for decades. Thanks to the sterling work of the Director General of Civil Aviation and his team, Guyana’s aviation industry has achieved over the last five (5) years the highest level of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) national compliance.

On the occasion of the Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, holding a Budget Stakeholders Meeting in February this year, included in the AOAG’s presentation was a recommendation that the budget provide sufficient funding to meet the urgent demand for hinterland airstrip rehabilitation and development. The Association asked, at that time, for a list of the Government’s choice of airstrips to benefit from this programme.

The Association subsequently wrote the Minister of Public Works welcoming the receipt from the GCAA of twenty-one hinterland airstrips designated for this programme and requested that the Association be afforded the opportunity to work in partnership with the Ministry by putting our expertise and experience at the disposal of the Ministry in the implementation of this programme.
The Association’s letter to the Minister emphasised that it is essential that “the rehabilitation and improvement of these Airstrips are planned to meet the specific requirements of the aircraft which use them and that these works are designed to comply with ICAO Annex 14 standards with respect to length, width, surface preference, obstacle clearances, fencing and parking ramp, which, unfortunately, have not always been the case”.

The letter emphasised the fact that frequent rehabilitation of these airstrips in the past had been substandard, carried out by unqualified and incompetent contractors and specifically mentions the Eteringbang and Ekereku Bottom.
The Association looks forward to meeting with the Minister in regard to our proposals.

Again, the Association can only conclude that the Minister was misguided and subject to inappropriate advice. We are committed to working in partnership with our Government for a more comprehensive consultative relationship from which a growing and expanding aviation industry would be the major beneficiary.