The safety of all passengers arriving in and departing from Guyana is in the hands of five persons at the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority control tower at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri.
All air traffic controllers have been off the job since Friday, having served notice that they were protesting a number of outstanding issues, among which are salary increases for 2008 and outstanding payment of retroactive overtime payments.
This newspaper was told yesterday that the people now manning the control tower at CJIA are the Director, Chitrani Heeralall, and managers Rickford Samaroo, Roy Sookhoo, Colin Johashen, and Adrian Bashier.
At present, these five are working 12-hour shifts, with no support staff, and as such aviation safety is severely compromised.
Ogle aerodrome is completely shutdown, as no one had turned up to do duty there yesterday.
Pilots taking off from that airstrip are doing so at their own risk, as only when in the air can they log their flight routes to the control tower at the CJIA.
Prior to proceeding on strike, these routes were logged with CJIA before the planes took off. The control tower at Ogle would file the flight plan with CJIA. Now, the five manning the major airport are taken by surprise, receiving notification of a departing flight from Ogle on a mere 10 minutes’ notice.
A source said that this places additional strain on the operators at CJIA. Just before the strike, the Civil Aviation Authority issued a bulletin stating that it will not maintain contact with any aircraft 75 miles from the airport. Just two months ago, an aircraft crashed outside the 75-mile limit. Had this notice been in place then, the crash would never have been reported.
Meanwhile, the controllers have said that they are prepared to stay away for as long as it takes to get what they deserve.
Only one engineer is on duty for a 15-hour shift, and when that period is completed, there is no one to take over.
Since the strike began at midnight on Friday night, one airline has rescheduled all of its flights because of the limited staffing.
The Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines has cancelled at least three flights.
Civil Aviation Authority’s Interim Director Zulfikar Mohamed has since said that officials are looking for a way to avoid closing the airport after midnight each night.
He said that senior staff members are filling in even as a new group of controllers is in training.
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