As we pointed out in an article that appears in this issue of Stabroek Business the local aviation industry has a reputation for discretion as far as its public profile is concerned though recent circumstances have more-or-less thrust the sector into the limelight.
The first circumstance has not so much to do with the full and final completion of the airport runway and other infrastructure that would put the Ogle International Airport in a position to receive flights from elsewhere in the Caribbean but with what appears to be a rise in the intensity of a long-standing feud within the sector involving, it seems, two of its major operators.
The issue, in some respects, is a complex one and it would be irresponsible of this newspaper to pronounce on the rights and wrongs – so to speak – of the matter while, from all appearances, the problem still appears to be unfolding. What we can say is that there now appears to be the prospect of government paying much closer attention to what is occurring in the sector since, after all, while responsibility for the modernizing of the Airport has been placed in the hands of an aviation sector, the project itself is one of considerable national importance in the context of improving both domestic and intra-regional communication.
The second issue has to do with two incidents over the past week or so, minor ones, it appears, in which aircraft carrying passengers encountered landing-related difficulties.
While we have seen no official reports on these incidents and without wishing to make a direct connection, it is perhaps apposite to point out that the underdeveloped interior aviation infrastructure including the state of several interior airstrips has long been the subject of discourses between the aviation sector and the government. More recently, the Ogle Airport Inc (OAI) itself, the company that is responsible for the modernization and management of Ogle has gotten into the act and this newspaper has seen a document listing the interior airstrips that are defective and describing those defects. What we can say is that, according to the document, most interior airstrips are defective in one way or another.
As we pointed out in another story these are perhaps brighter days for the local aviation industry given the fact that despite the problems associated with deficient or defective infrastructure the extent of passenger and cargo traffic between the coast and the interior has, in recent years, significantly expanded the market for intra-Guyana air travel. It all has to do with the increased movement of people, the result, primarily of the growth of the timber and forestry sectors.
The promise held by the full and final completion of Guyana’s second international airport would appear to be even greater. We already know that a municipal airport at Ogle will save persons travelling to Guyana and heading for Georgetown the much longer trip from Timehri. CARICOM’s financial contribution to the project, for example, is influenced both by its interest in enhancing intra-regional travel as a whole as well as the convenience of the closeness of Ogle to the Secretariat. What direct flights to Ogle mean as well is that tourists could conceivably make one-day trips to Guyana, visit Kaieteur and other interior locations and be back in the Caribbean the same day. Obviously, this would mean increased patronage for the local aviation companies.
Two points should be made here. First, as Ogle moves to a point where it becomes ready for the first wave of traffic between Georgetown and other parts of the region, government must move with commensurate haste to upgrade the infrastructure in the aviation section much of which has been deficient for several years. Secondly, the local aviation companies, joined together as they are in the challenge of making the Ogle International Airport a reality must find ways of overcoming their internal difficulties and keeping their eye on the prize.