Mar 22, 2013 News Comments Off on Message of Appreciation on the Occasion of 100 Years of Aviation in Guyana
By Joseph G Singh
Major General (retd)
On Sunday, March 24, 2013 an event will be held on the Lawns of Castellani Pool to celebrate 100 years of Aviation in Guyana. As a frequent flyer in the hinterland for 47 years, I wish to offer this message of appreciation to the men and women who served in the local aviation sector over the past 100 years. They demonstrated true pioneering spirit, a
commendable sense of professionalism, patriotism and humanity, in ensuring that the aviation services, facilities and standards evolved, as far as was humanly possible, in consonance with the development and security imperatives of Guyana and the expectations of our people. While acknowledging the establishment and role and functions of the international aviation services offered during periods of our history, I shall confine my contribution to the domestic aviation arena.
My own familiarity with the aviation sector commenced during the days of Lieutenant Colonel (USA Reservist) Art Williams and Harry Wendt, who operated out of then Bookers’ Ogle Airstrip. I was then a youngster of 7 or 8 years in the early 1950s and lived in an estate Range near to the pasture on the eastern perimeter of the small Ogle aerodrome. My friends and I would sit by the pasture and watch in amazement as the fragile looking aircraft landed and took off.
Later, in the late 1950s, while travelling from the West Bank Demerara to College on weekdays on the steamer the SS Queriman, then plying the Demerara River between the ferry stellings at Vreed-en-Hoop and Stabroek, Georgetown, I became familiar with the flights of the British Guiana Airways ‘Grumman Goose’ amphibious aircraft, operating out of the ramp at Ruimveldt, East Bank Demerara.
The Grumman Goose would move off from the Ruimveldt Hangar down the wooden ramp into the Demerara River, taxi out to midstream, turn into the wind, the twin engines would be revved up to full power, and the ‘Goose’ would then surge forwards with the bow waves spreading outwards in its wake, on the port and starboard sides, as it gained speed and took to the air.
In those days there were very few landing strips in the hinterland, and stretches of the rivers, which were free from obstructions, would be marked as Landing Pools such as at Garraway Stream and Kaieteur Top in the Potaro River. The Grumman aircraft provided the link for mail, medical supplies, fuel and rations for government administrative offices and trade stores in the hinterland, and delivered equipment and supplies in the mining districts.
It was during my military service from 1966 that the importance of the air links to and from the coast really struck home. Where national defence and security imperatives in the hinterland would have entailed use of tortuous logistic supply lines by river and trail, the aircraft became an indispensable asset. Troop deployments depended on the Grumman aircraft in areas where there were no landing strips and, where these were available, the DC3, the Twin Otter, the Caribou and the military’s six-seater Helio -Courier (nicknamed Rudolph because of the red painted propeller cone), were the lifeline of military operations. It was during such deployments and operations that the professional and personal relationships among operational troop commanders and command pilots and co-pilots, were cemented and evolved into friendships for life.
Whether you nodded off on a long flight or remained anxiously peering through the aircraft windows at the terrain below, forward and aft, looking for familiar features in the landscape, would have been a rule of thumb reflection of the degree of confidence you vested in the aptitude of the command pilot and co-pilot. Those pilots, who bravely flew through adverse weather, with darkness closing-in, in challenging terrain and without use of modern navigational aids, to make that one final resupply trip or to do a casualty evacuation from a remote airstrip at night in poor conditions, became legends in their time.
More so, the bravery of pilots, aircrews and ground staff, during actual operations in defence of Guyana’s territory, has been deservedly acknowledged and exemplified by the award of the Cacique Crown of Valour to Captain Roland DaSilva, the Golden Arrow of Courage to Lieutenant Colonel Michael (Taffy) Chan A Sue (deceased) and Captain Philip Jardim, and the President’s Commendation for Brave Conduct to Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Anthony (Tony) Mekdeci. These men and their colleagues, such as Malcolm Chan A Sue, Guy Spence and Derek Murphy, were cast in the mould of the legendary Art Williams, whose pioneering flights in support of the Boundary Survey team in the south east of British Guiana during the period 1936 to 1938 and his daring exploits in ‘bush flying’, made him a justifiably larger than life pilot.
The aviators of the 1950s and 1960s influenced a new cadre of pilots in the 1970s, who were recruited by the Guyana Defence Force to staff its Helicopter and Islander fleets. Many of these gravitated to the expanding civilian aviation companies but maintained their reserve officer status so that they could be mobilized for special operations or exercises.
As the 100th anniversary of Aviation in Guyana is being observed, my contemporaries and I from the late 1960s would unhesitatingly acknowledge that our operational missions and responsibilities were made easier by the unfailing support, commitment, patriotism and courage of a hardy band of aviation colleagues in the early post-Independence years.
On behalf of former comrades in arms, I extend to all pilots, aviation engineers, technicians, ground staff and administrators, our heartiest congratulations on the attainment of this significant milestone in Aviation in Guyana and wish you continuing development, success and safety for the future. Happy 100th Anniversary!
Sep 17, 2019Trophy Stall has supported the Wakenaam Cricket Committee for the staging of a T20 competition in the Essequibo river island. The competition has attracted seven teams; Good Success, Sans Souci, Sans...
Sep 17, 2019
Sep 17, 2019
Sep 17, 2019
Sep 17, 2019
Sep 17, 2019
The chartered accountant, Mr. Nigel Hinds, who is a well known letter-writer to this newspaper had a missive published... more
Editor’s Note, If your sent letter was not published and you felt its contents were valid and devoid of libel or personal attacks, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]