Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) Zulficar Mohamed said every effort is being made to fast track the acquisition of essential communication equipment for use in the control tower at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).
This comes on the heels of recommendations in a report following a near mid-air collision between a Delta Airlines Flight departing Piarco, Trinidad for Guyana and a Caribbean Airlines flight leaving the CJIA for Piarco in October.
The report, done by Captain Gregory Fox at Mohamed’s invitation, said the incident was owing to an Air Traffic Controller error resulting from high workload, departure from established procedures and partial loss of awareness.
It also described the current equipment being used in the sector as “obsolete and inadequate”. The report also said there was urgent need for the procurement of Distance Measuring Equipment (DME).
In an interview with this newspaper, Mohamed said tenders for certain equipment were opened locally, regionally and internationally last week and evaluation is expected to be completed by month end. He said the focus is on acquiring Very High Frequency radios as well as for back-up; and the plan is to quickly integrate the communication equipment into the system though it will take some time to obtain and incorporate other critical equipment such as the DME. Mohamed said this and other necessary equipment, which had to be replaced under the modernisation programme, would have to be made to specifications and then test run for about a year or so.
The Director General also pointed out that for the new year, the GCAA plans to examine a review of regulations and so would advertise for a Legal Affairs Officer. He said training is also essential, adding that a batch of Air Traffic Controllers have recently completed training while plans are in train to advertise for more controllers.
In reference to a query on the status of any boost to local search and rescue operations in the industry, Mohamed referred to the national search and rescue plan done for sea and air operations, which he said is being handled by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds.
He said the draft document has been submitted to be examined and that operators in the private sector are also aware of the plan.
Investigations into aircraft accidents usually take several months and sometimes over a year. Regarding this issue, Mohamed said that while preliminary reports are sometimes completed by the GCAA, in instances where international assistance is sought for engine analysis, for example, those reports complement the preliminary findings to make them complete.
He said there was nothing the authority could do to hasten that process.
Meanwhile, following publication of media reports on the Fox Report, Transport Minister Robeson Benn acknowledged the need to upgrade equipment; saying that government had already provided funds to modernize the available ATC equipment. Some $700 million has been earmarked by government to address the problem of aging and aged equipment. Benn said new equipment would be available by the first half of the year.
Despite the inadequacies the minister was adamant that the Air Traffic Control system in Guyana is safe.