Wresting management control of the Eugene F Correia International Airport from the Board on which aviation company Trans Guyana Airways holds significant sway is among the highest priorities of the National Air Transport Authority (NATA), an umbrella body comprising eight of the nine operators at that airport.
NATA President Annette Arjoon-Martins told Stabroek Business on Wednesday, “What we need is to move quickly to a position where the management of the airport is removed entirely from the control of any of the operators at Ogle and placed in the hands of independent experts.” Arjoon-Martins, who is also General Manager of aviation company Air Services Ltd, spoke exclusively to the Stabroek Business shortly after she had delivered a well-received report on the first year of NATA’s activities at its Annual General Meeting (AGM). Arjoon-Martins dropped a broad hint that the eight operators at Ogle, who, a year ago, set up NATA largely for the purpose of forcing major changes to the structure of the Board of Directors at the Airport continue to be unhappy with the prevailing management regime there. “There has not been much of a change in the situation,” she said.
Last Wednesday’s AGM was convened against the backdrop of longstanding tensions between the eight aviation service providers at Ogle who are members of NATA and the ninth, Trans Guyana Airways, whose Chief Executive Officer Michael Correia heads the Board of Directors of the airport. NATA members have, from time to time, charged that Correia’s position has allowed him complete administrative control over the facility and that this has redounded to their operational inconvenience, if not disadvantage. On Wednesday Arjoon-Martins noted that nothing had changed from last year when the association was established. The members of the NATA are Air Services Limited, Roraima Airways, Hinterland Aviation, Phoenix Airways, Domestic Airways, Jags Aviation, Wings Aviation and Hopkinson Mining Aviation.
The tension at Ogle had risen significantly last year in the wake of an aggressive but ultimately failed lobby by NATA members to turn back a decision by government to rename the facility the Eugene F Correia Airport. However, late last year, NATA finally got one of its wishes when, as part of its disclosed plans to modernize the aviation, the political administration announced that it would create a body to oversee administrative and commercial operations at local airports, arising out of report submitted by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure on the condition of the country’s aviation sector. The report dealt in part with the lease arrangements that obtain at the Eugene F Correia International Airport.
At Wednesday’s meeting, there were signs that such differences as had arisen between the administration and NATA members were being played down with two key government officials, Minister in the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Annette Ferguson, who has responsibility for the aviation sector and Director of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Lt Colonel (retd) Egbert Fields not only addressing the NATA forum, but also, in the process, speaking warmly about NATA and its work over the past year.
The NATA President, meanwhile, received generous acclaim from the gathering that included a retinue of private sector officials for a presentation that focused unerringly at a more egalitarian management regime at Ogle. Signalling that NATA continues to believe that what one member described as “Correia control” of the airport remains a stumbling block to stability, Arjoon-Martins also repeated previously made calls for what she had described as the present airport management’s “abuse of a dominant position.”
NATA Vice President and Roraima Airways CEO Gerry Gouveia told Stabroek Business that the association’s concern was with the creation of “an administratively stable environment” at Ogle without which, he said, “the operational side of the airport will be compromised.” According to Gouveia “with the economic direction of the country pointing to much greater demand for an efficient aviation sector in the period ahead there is pressure on both the operators and the government to fix the existing problems and to do so quickly. There will continue to be administrative instability and operational underperformance if the situation continues as it is.”