Nov 18, 2008 News
PM to assess Guyana’s search and rescue capabilities
By Michael Jordan
Minister of Transport, Works and Communication, Robeson Benn, yesterday announced that the search for the missing plane and crew has been called off, since it is believed that they have perished.
And Prime Minister Sam Hinds is to chair a meeting tomorrow to discuss the upgrading of Guyana’s search and rescue capabilities, in the wake of news that the search for the missing US aircraft and its crew has been called off.
The Prime Minister told Kaieteur News on Sunday that the aim of the meeting would be to review the various arrangements that were used in past search and rescue operations and to upgrade them.
Officials from the Joint Services and the Ministry of Health, along with several aircraft owners, are to attend.
The Prime Minister conceded that the discussion was partly in response to the disappearance of the Beech King airplane and its crew, who are now presumed to have perished.
But he declined to say whether he was satisfied with the efforts to recover the missing plane.
“It is timely to have a review of the various (search and rescue) arrangements we have had in the past, and to update them…we always seek to do things better.”
At least one aviation expert has criticised the search and rescue operation that was launched by local authorities for the US-registered twin-engine aircraft.
The expert stated that the search should have begun at least two hours after contact was lost with the pilot.
The source claimed that officials only responded the following day, when visual traces, such as a fire from a crash, would have most likely disappeared.
According to the expert, the authorities should have requested that the GDF Skyvan be dispatched to the area immediately after learning of the plane’s disappearance.
“The Skyvan would have been in the area by 5:30pm, (but) our search and rescue system collapsed. Nothing happened between 4:00 pm on Saturday (when the plane vanished) and 11:00 hrs the next day, which is unacceptable.”
The response was “lethargic,” the expert had said. Press reports had stated that two British helicopters were dispatched to the area on the Saturday that the plane vanished.
But the source refuted this report, saying that the area where the aircraft is believed to have disappeared was out of the range of the British helicopters.
Guyana Defence Force Chief-of-Staff, Commodore Gary Best, recently told reporters that the GDF choppers were not sent to the area because the British helicopters were already dispatched.
Explaining the importance of a quick response, the aviation source said that the victims could still have been alive, as was the case with the woman and child who survived a crash in the Mazaruni last year.
According to the expert, pilots usually carry transmitting sets with which they could have communicated to rescuers. However, the batteries would eventually run down.
Concerns about the nation’s search and rescue capabilities also surfaced last month after six people perished in the Corentyne River when a vessel ferrying passengers from Suriname capsized.
The search team has not picked up any signals from the missing plane’s Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) since last week Monday.
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