Hinterland residents feel squeeze from suspension of interior shuttle flights

-GCAA says working with operators for resumption

The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) yesterday said it is working with domestic operators to resume interior shuttle operations, which were suspended last Wednesday, even as residents of hinterland communities across Guyana are already contending with the resulting disruption of their lives.

Amerindian Peoples’ Association representative Michael McGarrell told Stabroek News that there is at least one teacher from Chenapau Primary school who will not be able to resume duties when school reopens tomorrow since she would be unable to travel in light of the suspension.

“Currently a teacher who was supposed to resume duties in the Chenapau Primary School is not able to travel as the shuttle service is not available. The ministry called and ask her turn up at the Turkeyen Nursery School until it is sorted out. She has already transferred her daughter back to Chenapou and now is unsure what to do,” McGarrell explained.

Egbert Field

In addition to this, he said students from Karisparu, also in Region Eight, will not be able to go over to Mahdia where they attend school. Students from Kamarang, Kurukabaru and some other communities will not be able to get back to school in Sand Creek, Region Nine.

“The Paramakatoi Secondary School depends on shuttle services to bring supplies in, hundreds of students use the dormitory facilities, many may turn up for school and may have to go back home, as there will not be enough food for them,” McGarrell related.

“It is our hope that shuttle services resume as soon as possible as the impacts are already being felt, should it be prolonged our communities will be further burdened with hardships.  The cost of food will go up, as there will be no way of bringing additional supplies in. Prices are already high in those regions,” he added.

Director General of the GCAA (ret’d) Lt. Col. Egbert Field has said that the suspension was made in the interest of ensuring the travelling public’s safety, following three recent crashes and the deaths of two pilots. As a result, domestic airlines have been required to submit policies and procedures on such operations for approval.

Around the clock

The GCAA, in a press statement issued last evening, said while it is aware of the socio-economic impact the suspension is having on hinterland residents, officials have been working around the clock to evaluate submissions made by operators.

To date, submissions have been received by the GCAA from National Air Transport Association (NATA) and Trans Guyana Airways.

“All day today September 2, 2017, the Authority’s Flight Operations Inspector was aboard Trans Guyana Airways flight conducting [a] demonstration inspection to ensure documented procedures are observed by the operator. Inspections were conducted on flight operations into Olive Creek, Blake Slater and Kamarang aerodromes,” the statement said.

Offering some insight into its review process, the GCAA explained that it has adopted the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) five phase process for the approval of an operator’s manual on shuttle operations. The process entails Pre-application phase, Application phase, Document evaluation, Demonstration, and Inspection and Certifica-tion. It was further noted that based on the demonstration inspection, Trans Guyana Airways is required to amend its manual, after which certification of its shuttle operations should be completed on, or before, Wednesday September 6, 2017.

Meanwhile, the GCAA noted that it is working with the other operators to bring their operations into compliance for them to be certified for shuttle operations.

“The GCAA reaffirms that its action was necessary to enhance safety of the travelling public and aviation personnel. The Authority will continue its increased surveillance of Air Operators,” the statement concluded.

Not concerned with economics

Meanwhile, in responding to comments made by the Chief Executive Officer of Roraima Airways, Captain Gerry Gouveia, where he called the decision to suspend the shuttle operations a “knee jerk reaction,” Field reiterated that the GCAA’s priority remains that of ensuring safety of the flying public.

“I am aware of the comments made from some parts of the industry about companies not supporting the decision that the authority has made. One was from the Managing Director of Roraima but the authority is concerned not with the economics. I know Roraima Airways is concerned with the economics in the industry, but we are concerned with the safety because we are looking with at the bigger picture. We are here to enhance the safety of the flying public. We are cognisant of the economics involved but that is not out primary responsibility, our or primary goal is to promote aviation safety,” the Director said.

“I know the negative comments are based on the economics and how it will affect them, but the lives and the families who are suffering, or rather, who will suffer should safety be compromised. I have received a call from ICAO saying they were completely satisfied with the firm action being taken by the GCAA,” he added.

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