Annai flights cancelled over livestock on runway

Trans Guyana Airways (TGA) yesterday cancelled flights to Annai citing the danger of livestock on the runway at the Region 9 airstrip.

Reports are that travellers to the region had long complained of the situation, while pilots had lodged reports on the issue with the authorities.

While no official at TGA was available for a comment on the situation yesterday, Stabroek News was told that the airline’s chief pilot, along with other personnel from the company, travelled to the community’s aerodrome this week and informed a private rancher who operates in its proximity that his livestock was affecting flights operated by the airline.

It was noted by airline personnel yesterday that the aircraft had experienced a technical problem while preparing to depart for Annai and this coupled with the continued incursions by roaming cattle led to the decision made by the airline to cancel the flight.

The airline personnel informed that on two occasions this week, TGA aircraft were made to hold over the aerodrome before the runway was cleared of animals.

TGA operates scheduled flights to Lethem, with intermediate stops at Annai and this newspaper understands that a fully booked flight to the community was expected to depart Ogle around 9 am yesterday. However, a passenger noted that the flight was cancelled and TGA could not provide information about when flights would resume.

The airline pilots had in the past protested the roaming of animals on the runway, which has long been an issue at interior airstrips.

According to an aviation source, the issue of fencing is one which the authorities appeared not too keen to address. He said there were several reports of cows roaming on the runway at several interior aerodromes, including the airstrip at Annai, at Port Kaituma in the North West District (NWD) as well as the Imbaimadai airstrip in the Cuyuni/Mazaruni. He said there were also problems regarding persons walking along or crossing the runways at aerodromes while aircraft are operating.

The landing procedures observed by pilots operating into unmanned aerodromes require them to exercise caution while descending into the aerodrome.

Pilots are required to circle the aerodrome before carrying out landing procedures against the direction of the wind.

The authorities usually employ a ranger to overlook the runway whenever flights are operating into an aerodrome and that individual is expected to ensure that no animals or persons are on the runway whenever aircraft are landing or taking off.

Last August, TGA pilots had protested the situation at the Port Kaituma airstrip, one of the busiest interior aerodromes. The pilots had refused to operate into the aerodrome until the situation was remedied.

Other airlines subsequently refused to travel to the Region One community and an aviation inspector attached to the Public Works Ministry later travelled to the aerodrome to asses the situation.

A contract was subsequently awarded by the regional administration to have the perimeter fence repaired at the aerodrome.

Most interior aerodromes are used in part as roadways by residents and this newspaper had reported in the past that in some cases residents would cut the fence to gain access to the runway as a shortcut to their destination. In the case of Port Kaituma, cattle farmers were crossing the runway to gain access to greener grazing areas.

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