Infrastructure Ministry is working with ASL, stakeholders to resume flights to Kopinang

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to an article published in your newspaper’s Wednesday December 13, 2017 edition, under the headline, ‘Gloomy Christmas looms for Kopinang as ASL suspends flights’.

The Ministry of Public Infrastructure wishes to inform the general public, particularly the residents of Kopinang, that this issue is engaging the relevant officials within the Ministry and a joint visit with Air Services Limited (ASL), the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), and Ministry personnel will be undertaken shortly to reach a resolution.

The Ministry further wishes to provide the following information to add insight to this issue:

Major rehabilitation was undertaken at the Kopinang Airstrip in 2017 and works were completed in November 2017. Realising the importance of maintaining service to Kopinang during the rehabilitation, operations were sometimes curtailed, but the airstrip remained open, except for a period of approximately six weeks between August and October. Despite the fact that minor corrective works were still being executed, the runway was reopened and has been fully operational since October.

The scope of works entailed the application of a laterite levelling course to correct major depressions in the original runway; reconstruction of a laterite base course within the original runway; and the extension of the runway by approximately 113 metres, from 459 metres to 572 metres.

Prior to rehabilitation, the airstrip’s surface was very uneven, thus posing a threat to public safety. There was a major depression close to the beginning of the runway extending over a distance of 120 metres and during the rainy season, there was extensive ponding over the first section of the runway, further constraining the effective length of the runway. As mentioned before, this depression was corrected.

As a result of the extensive works, the airstrip has seen structural improvements as well as improvement with respect to safety provisions; the riding surface is now relatively uniform and this will ensure a higher level of service. Captain Mohinder Ramjag, Senior Pilot and Operations Director at the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), landed on the airstrip as recently as December 11, 2017 and shared similar sentiments on the condition of the airstrip, relaying that the condition had improved considerably and there were no immediate safety concerns.

Before rehabilitation of the airstrip, ASL, the main service provider for that location, as well as other domestic airlines, landed on the airstrip without complaint when it was in a worse condition.

However, during a trip to Kopinang on December 11, 2017, Ministry personnel were informed by residents that ASL had informed them that the airline would not be flying to the location until confirmation was received that the airstrip was fully operational. This claim was perplexing since the GCAA disseminates information – almost in real-time – to all domestic airlines and pilots on closures and the reopening of airstrips.

Residents also shared the dire effects the absence of service is having on the community.

ASL was subsequently contacted by the Ministry about its decision to suspend its service to Kopinang and a senior ASL pilot, Mr Yacoob Mazaharally, indicated that a number of the company’s pilots relayed that the steep slope of the embankment constructed to retain the approximately 1.52 metres of fill placed in the runway extension presented a major safety hazard. As a result, the company decided to suspend its service to the community. It should be noted that the last ASL flight was about two months ago, while works were still ongoing on the airstrip. Further works, including making the slope of the embankment gentle, have since been executed. It must also be noted that other services have continued to land at Kopinang but the suspension by ASL has had a significant impact on the community.

The Ministry is committed to working with ASL and all other relevant stakeholders to ensure the recommencement of flights to Kopinang.

Yours faithfully,

Desilon Daniels

Public Relations Officer

Ministry of Public

Infrastructure

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