Flights to the Yakishuru Aerodrome in the northwest are expected to resume today following the intervention of Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson.
“The aerodrome had completed and passed all the requirements and therefore the minister recommended that the aerodrome be reopened…,” Press Officer to Ferguson, Andrew Weekes told Stabroek News yesterday.
This newspaper reported on Monday on the plight of residents of Barama, Region One who bemoaned a three-month closure of the Aerodrome by the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).
The villagers complained that access to health care and other services had been severely hindered as there was a problem also using the Barama River route since it is dry and makes for an arduous journey.
One resident of the nearby Kariako Village lamented the situation which saw his daughter, who was bitten by a poisonous snake, having to travel by an All-Terrain Vehicle for seven hours to the nearest hospital then medevaced to the city. “My daughter was bitten by a labaria snake and although we had persons willing to see her get a flight out to Georgetown it could not happen,” Gilbert Alexander told Stabroek News in an Interview.
The airstrip, the only one in the Barama area, was opened in October of 2011 following inspections and the meeting of all the civil aviation guidelines. It was granted a Category 1 domestic aircraft operation licence and had been operating since.
Head of the GCAA, Egbert Field had said on Sunday that the closure was necessary to allow for an inspection by the GCAA.
“The airstrip is at the moment still to be inspected by the civil aviation authority,” he said.
Field also informed that there was an issue between the operator of the airstrip and the person he leased the lands from that puts the matter further on hold. “We are awaiting the outcome of a dispute (over) the airstrip between two parties. The matter is now with the ministry and we are awaiting that matter to be resolved,” he said.
Owner, Kennedy Smith said that this year he completed expansion of the runway to the tune of over $7M and two weeks later, the facility was inspected by the GCAA and he was told that it complied with the regulations and he was free to operate as per normal.
“The inspector and I went up to do the inspection two weeks ago Tuesday. Everything went well and they granted me the okay to begin operations. We had flights that Tuesday and Wednesday but on Thursday I got a call that it be closed,” he said.
“I was told by GCAA that there is a letter from the (Ministry) of Public Infrastructure saying that it has to be closed from 28th March to the 28th June but I have not gotten any letter saying that,” he added.
He admitted that there is a private issue between him and the woman that he leased the land from as she wanted additional sums to what was contracted. However, he did not feel that the airport should be closed to facilitate that matter.
Ferguson, her press officer said, also pointed out that the matter was a civil one and should not interfere with the aerodrome.
Yesterday, Field did not go into details on the closure but said that the GCAA was working to finalise documents so that the aerodrome could be opened by today.
“We are finalising details so it could be opened by tomorrow. We are on the final stages of resolving the matter. There are a number of processes before an airstrip can be opened; licence, approvals… there is a process. We are most likely by tomorrow (today),” the GCAA Head said.