The Guyana Defence Force’s (GDF) Air Corps remains mostly grounded owing to inoperable aircraft, even as repairs to the recently damaged Skyvan appear distant.
Aviation sources at Timehri told Stabroek News recently that the aircraft, registered 8R-GGK, and which escaped major damage after its main landing gear (nose wheel) broke seconds after it landed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) during a training exercise two Sundays ago, is still to be examined to determine the possible causes and solutions required to make the aircraft airworthy.
Attempts by this newspaper to obtain a comment from the military were unsuccessful. The Skyvan is utilized by the military mainly for commercial purposes and transport of ration and supplies.
The extent of the damage to the craft is said to be extensive. A source at the Air Corps said recently that the entire component which houses the landing gear was damaged. This includes a wrinkle effect, meaning other parts of the front of the aircraft were damaged during the incident and an engineer said it will be grounded for an extensive period since spares will have to be sourced.
Recently several miners issued complaints and concerns surrounding the incident, one miner from the Ekereku area in Region Seven said at a recent miners meeting that the aircraft was the sole means of transportation to the remote area. He said the Skyvan was the only such craft capable of landing at the ill-maintained airstrip at Ekereku top.
The Skyvan is the second to last of its model and it was built more than three decades ago by the Shorts Skyvan company in the United Kingdom.
In the absence of the SkyVan, the army has been relying on the services of its other main fixed-wing aircraft, the Chinese Y-12 Twin Panda civilian aircraft. The landing capacity of the Y-12, registered 8R-GDS, however remains restricted to less than four aerodromes in Guyana’s hinterland, among them the airstrips at Lethem and Camp Jaguar, because of the length of runways there.
Stabroek News understands that the military may be looking at long-term solutions to improve the operations of its fleet, with plans in train to purchase a Britten Norman aircraft. Another aircraft, a Cessna 206 considered, ‘the drug plane’ in aviation circles and which was found abandoned at the Kwapau airstrip in Region Seven, in March 2005 remains on the ground.
The authorities have expended large sums of money, said to be in the millions to refurbish the Cessna 206 drug dropping configured aircraft.
Reports are that the Air Corps had submitted estimated sums to the authorities to refurbish the aircraft and a few months after a second estimate was given, a specialist from domestic airline Air Services Limited (ASL) was hired to remedy the situation but to no avail. A new real-time engine was also purchased to make the craft operable a source noted.
The two Bell 206 helicopters also continue to pose difficulties for the air unit, and reports are that parts from one aircraft, the GDF Two, is being used to make the other aircraft operable.
High frequency (HF) radios, worth in the vicinity of US$45,000 have not been installed on the aircraft to date, even though work was undertaken since 2008 to install the digitally advanced radios on the GDF One. HF radios are considered a must for most aircraft since they are able to make communication easy when the aircraft are considered to be out of range.