Aircraft owners say Minister got it wrong

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BROOKLYN, NY –The Aircraft Owners Association of Guyana (AAG) Tuesday has taken issue with a reported move by Public Works Minister, Bishop Juan Edghill, to “suspend with immediate effect” the operators of aircraft involved in two incidents on consecutive days on two different hinterland airstrips earlier this month.

AOAG said that the incidents occurred on the Eteringbang runway on July 15, followed a day later by another incident on the Kamarang runway, and that it “expects that the established procedure for an aircraft accident investigation to have been implemented and in progress and for appropriate action to be taken accordingly.”

But it said it was “shocked” at the reported intervention and public statements made in the press on the matter “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 AOAG said that it could only conclude that the Minister has been” inappropriately advised” on this matter in the absence of the Director-General of the 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 authorized 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 traveling public, that all commercial aircraft operations in Guyana are rigidly regulated and required to meet extremely high standards both regarding pilot training and qualification and aircraft maintenance to obtain an Aircraft Operators Certificate (AOC).”

It said that Guyana’s aviation industry “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 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,” the A.OAG said, adding that “Guyana’s aviation industry has achieved over the last five years the highest level of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) national compliance.”

The AOAG recalled that in February, it had made a presentation to the government for 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 program,” and welcomed the GCAA’s 21 hinterland airstrips designated for this program.

The AOAG said that it also requested that it be allowed to work in partnership with the Ministry “by putting our expertise and experience at the disposal of the Ministry in the implementation of this program.”

The AOAG said that in its letter to the government, it emphasized 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 concerning length, width, surface preference, obstacle clearances, fencing, and parking ramp, which, unfortunately, have not always been the case”.

The letter also indicated that frequent rehabilitation of these airstrips in the past had been substandard, carried out by unqualified and incompetent contractors.

“Again, the Association can only conclude that the Minister (Edghill) 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.”

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