A succession of occurrences, incidents and accidents in the past year or so have placed the spotlight on the aviation sector, which, customarily, would appear to favour getting on with what it has to do in conditions of quiet diligence and placing itself in the public domain only when it becomes necessary to do so.
As a matter of record, the local aviation sector – save and except the aircraft owned and operated by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) has been owned entirely by the private sector ever since the Guyana Airways Corporation (GAC) passed into private hands in 1993. That circumstance, nonetheless, left the state with an oversight role in the sector and with responsibility for providing and maintaining aviation infrastructure. That responsibility falls to the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and there are, unquestionably, limitations to the effectiveness with which it has been carrying out that role.
Over time the role of the aviation sector has not only expanded significantly but has also grown in terms of its strategic significance to the country’s development. The sustained opening up of the hinterland and the increased movement of people between the coast and the interior regions have – in the face of limited safe and convenient travel alternatives, placed additional responsibilities on the aviation sector.
Beyond that, it is hardly a secret that the mining, forestry and tourism sectors are heavily dependent on the services which the aviation industry provides. In fact, each and all of those sectors will almost certainly become imperiled should any serious problems impact negatively on the aviation sector’s ability to provide the services that it does.
Over the years, the aviation sector, specifically the Guyana Aircraft Owners Association (GAOA) has repeatedly sought to draw attention to what some aviators have told this newspaper has been the chronic official neglect of the state’s responsibilities in the matters of improving, upgrading and maintaining crucial aviation infrastructure including airstrips and other facilities.
As interior travel has increased the GAOA has also been more insistent in its call for the GCAA to relinquish responsibility for search and rescue operations and accident investigations. In the former instance, local aviators say that the GCAA is simply not competent to single-handedly undertake search and rescue pursuits while in the latter case it is believed that conflict of interest could well arise since it is not inconceivable that there may be instances in which the GCAA itself might be brought under the microscope.
This year again the GAOA has drawn attention to what it asserts is the government’s chronic neglect of its responsibility to the sector in a range of areas including airstrip safety. Indeed, one aviator has even expressed the view that the GCAA’s failure to place accident reports in the public domain – another circumstance which the GAOA says it wants changed – is a function of the difficulty which it sometimes has in arriving at conclusions that might point fingers at itself.
One of the features of the most recent GAOA media release is the broad hint which it drops that its bilateral discourses which it has had with the government regarding the upgrading of sector infrastructure would appear to have led nowhere as far as change in the administration’s attitude to the sector is concerned.
For reasons that have to do with the development of several sectors a point has long been reached where government has to begin to radically change its attitude to the aviation industry. The fact of the matter is that it is disingenuous, to say the least, to keep up a sustained drumbeat about the strategic significance of the interior regions of our country while denying opportunity for the growth and development of the sector without which the linkage between the coastal regions and the interior and the development that can derive therefrom will simply not happen.