China team to train GDF air corps pilots, engineers

A six-member team from the People’s Republic of China is here to train Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Air Corps pilots and engineers to operate the Y-12 aircraft—the first such programme conducted by the Chinese air force outside of China.

The China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) Y-12 Conversion Training Pro-gramme was declared open yesterday by army Chief of Staff Commodore Gary Best at GDF Air Corps Hangar, at Timehri, and he said it has come at great expense to the rest of the GDF because all of the grant aid given to military has been converted to enhance the air corps. “…we place a high premium to the importance and effectiveness of air transport in GDF and with our location air transportation is extremely important to GDF,” Best said at the opening.

The Y-12 aircraft was purchased from CATIC in 2001 and after the training of army personnel it was placed into service in March 2002. However, over the years, the number of pilots has decreased and since every pilot is restricted to a certain amount of flying time, the situation has affected the GDF.

Participants of the Y-12 Conversion Training Programme along with instructors, army Chief of Staff Commodore Gary Best (sixth from right) Chinese Ambassador Yu Wenzhe (5th from right) and CATIC Sales Manager Li Ning (extreme left) (Photo by Lakhram Bhagirat)

The $100M project is being funded through Chinese military aid to the GDF and China’s Ambassador Yu Wenzhe stated that it is yet another example of the technical cooperation between the two militaries.

“Upon completion of the training project, the GDF’s pilots and engineers will have a better understanding of the technical know-how of the Y-12 and will be able to fly and maintain the Y-12 aircraft more efficiently,” Ambassa-dor Wenzhe said

He added that over the past years, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the GDF have enjoyed very good relations and there have been regular exchanges of high level delegations between the two militaries and he hoped cooperation between the two militaries will be enhanced and further expanded. More officers, he further noted, are taking advantage of the full scholarships offered by the Ministry of National Defence of China and three officers are scheduled to leave for China to attend Military Training Courses soon. In addition, the Ambassador pointed out that just some two months ago, Chinese Military Band instructors completed their mission with the GDF.

The request for the training to be conducted in Guyana was first made in June 2007 to a visiting CATIC customer service team. In 2009, a presentation was done to the PLA and a grant was signed in November of the same year for the training of pilots, engineers and technicians and to also provide a spare package. The agreement was signed in July of 2010 by Commodore Best during a visit to China. The agreement states that a training team will be provided by CATIC, comprising flight instructors, maintenance instructors, interpreters and a general spares package.

Best expressed his gratitude to Ambassador Wenzhe and China for the assistance provided and said the army will continue to look forward to stronger relations.

Attending the opening were five pilots and 23 ground troops. Ground troop training has already commenced and will conclude on March 23, and the pilot training will commence on March 26, and will run for six weeks.

The training will consist of two levels—Level 1 is captaincy for all pilots; and Level 2 for flight instructors.  The two levels are meant to prepare a pilot to function as Captain of the Y-12 aircraft and develop local expertise to carry out training of junior pilots. For the training to be considered effective, the pilots, engineers and technicians must be able to apply their newly-acquired skills in the real work environment.

Sales Manager Li Ning said that CATIC is a state-owned company, which exports fighters, trainers, bombers and helicopters, amongst other military machinery. He said that currently there are more than 1,500 China-made aircraft flying the skies in approximately 50 countries and CATIC provides all life and multi-aspect customer support to the customers, including conducting the conversion training.

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