The operator of a light Cessna 206 aircraft that landed on the Number 63 beach in August had permission to operate there, Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) Director Zulficar Mohammed said yesterday.
The aircraft, bearing United States registration N299PM, landed on the Number 63 beach on the Corentyne during the morning hours of August Monday this year.
Mohammed told Stabroek News yesterday briefly by telephone that the aircraft operator did not breach any civil aviation regulations and that he had permission to operate in the area. He said that the GCAA knew about the movement, but he did not elaborate when pressed further about the aircraft’s movement on the day in question.
Stabroek News understands that on the day of the flight, the operator of the aircraft contacted the Control Tower at Timehri and stated that he had permission to operate the flight into the Berbice area and that he had permission to land at the beach. He related that he was given permission by the relevant minister to operate in the area and that if there were any objections, the minister should be contacted.
Normally, it was noted, the operator would have had to make a request to operate in the intended destination and same would have been logged at the Control Tower for air traffic staff to note. It is unclear whether this was done.
The aircraft owner initially sought permission from the GCAA to fly into the Skeldon airstrip. (The aircraft is able to land on a waterway and on land.) In addition to breaching regulations regarding the operation of foreign registered aircraft into local aerodromes rather than the international airport at Timehri and at the Ogle airport, the operator would have been required to approach the immigration and customs offices for relevant permission, a source said yesterday.
The aircraft is owned and registered to Guyanese Yacoob Ally, as stated on US flight databases. It was registered in Palmetto, Florida to Ally several years ago. This newspaper understands that the aircraft is usually parked at Ogle and its operations do not fall within the ambit of the Aircraft Owners Association of Guyana (AOAG).
Reports are that the aircraft, a six-seater amphibian, landed on the beach—which a source reiterated is not an approved landing area. Several Chinese nationals and a local businessman were on the flight when it landed at the crowded beach on the day in question, persons there had said.
Stabroek News understands that the heads of the military forces were upset at the aircraft’s movement and officials there only knew of it after they were shown photographs of the craft on the beach on the day in question. It immediately sparked an interest.
Reports are that an investigation into the incident was launched but it is unclear what the outcome was.
According to an aviation source, the company which owns the aircraft in question had “committed several similar unusual flights” in the past. It was noted that a few years ago, an aircraft owned by the company flew to Skeldon–also on the Corentyne–from Ogle and later that day made an “unusual” cross-country flight from the area to Lethem, in Region Nine. The source said that the movement was one of several flights which the local aviation authorities “knew” about.
Stabroek News recently obtained a photograph of the aircraft moored alongside the Number 63 beach on August Monday. A resident in the area stated that the flight seemed strange since in her 30-odd years living in the area, it was the first time she had witnessed an aircraft landing on the beach.
Other residents said that after the aircraft landed on the beach the passengers were picked up and taken from the area. A resident said that the men seemed to be in a hurry. She said that the aircraft remained at the beach for the remainder of the afternoon and some time later that day it “disappeared.”
Persons in the area said that there many persons on the beach that day and several persons were given rides on the aircraft around the beach. A businessman in the area said that “foreign persons… would be seen at the beach during the afternoons.” He said the scenario was not “noticed at first” since often tourists would travel to and from the beach. The businessman went on to comment that the authorities needed to pay keener interest in protecting the country’s territorial borders.