The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has increased its surveillance at the two local international airports but there is need for more manpower to better monitor interior locations and prepare for the expected growth of the aviation sector, according to Director-General Colonel (Ret’d) Egbert Field.
In the immediate future, Field said that some 20 to 25 large helicopters will be flying from shore to rig and rig to shore as a requirement for the start-up production phase of the developing oil and gas sector.
“That increases the aviation activity thus the authority will be faced not only with monitoring but also ensuring that the aviation industry remains as safe as it can be, which is equal to zero accident,” he told Sunday Stabroek during an interview.
In addition to manpower needed for surveillance to monitor the helicopters, he said there will be more aircraft operators coming in to run the helicopters.
“Already, we have been visited by companies from as far as Malaysia, the USA and France. They want to come to Guyana to operate helicopters that will fly to and from the rigs,” he noted.
“We still need to increase our surveillance in the interior areas. We are conducting some, though not to the extent required due to manpower shortage. We need to beef up that area,” he continued.
If the GCAA has to do detailed surveillance, he said, it would have to put inspectors on a regular basis in outlying areas.
The shuttle operation, he noted, falls under the GCAA’s surveillance programme.
Last year, he said, was a bad year for the shuttles as three light aircrafts crashed and two pilots were killed.
Following the crashes, all shuttle operations were suspended. The suspension was lifted, Field said, because the operators have complied with the requirement of submitting their operating manuals for approval to conduct operations.
At present, he said, the local aviation industry is faced with a number of challenges, including the need for a well-equipped human resource base that will keep abreast with the fast pace of development of the industry.
“The staff is working extremely hard to ensure we meet with the challenges which are numerous for this authority,” he said.
Another of the main challenges, he added, is the increase in the domestic operations in the interior due to the expansion in the gold and diamond mining sector.
“As the gold price increases, aircraft owners want to bring more aircraft to service the interior. My staff is challenged,” he said.
Another is the challenges that will come with the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and the extension of the runway at a time when the energy sector is set to take off. As a result, there will be more traffic coming from traditional destinations and non-traditional destinations, he said.
“I normally liken it to a tsunami coming towards the aviation industry of Guyana. Unless we build that hill to counter the tsunami as rapidly as possible in a safe fashion, that tsunami could come and swamp is,” he noted.
Nevertheless, Field said, he was confident that given the experience and the capability of the staff and with his knowledge of the regulatory area, they would be able to surmount the foreseeable challenges.
For the first time in its history, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) will host its transport conference in Guyana from November 19th to November 23rd this year, which Field said shows come confidence in Guyana.
The President of ICAO, whom he met in Nigeria last year, he explained, noted he was keeping his eye on the aviation industry in Guyana.
Additionally, Field said, a number of international players in the industry, including from the US and UK, have expressed their interest. This includes The Boeing Company, which has visited with the GCAA.