… CJIA, GCAA claim all local activities were above board
By Zena Henry
The various agencies linked to local air travel are unhappy that Khamraj Lall, the Guyanese
pilot found with over US$600,000 stashed in his jet, would have been involved in alleged unlawful actions. This is so, Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn told reporters yesterday, because Lall was the first to offer what he thought was a vital service within the aviation sector; that is a Guyanese national providing high-end executive flights, and on-demand medivac services.
Lall on Monday attended court in the unincorporated US territory of Puerto Rico and was placed on US$100,000 bail. The pilot requested from the court not to have certain information pertaining to his business and assets made public. This however request has apparently not warranted grave concern from local authorities, since they claim that all Lall’s operations here have been above board.
Currently, Minister Benn said, Lall’s local operations have ceased, naturally, in light of the legal action against him. Flanked by head of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Zulfikar Mohamed and Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ramesh Ghir, among other aviation officials, Benn explained that the government was at the time satisfied with the due diligence conducted on the pilot and his operation.
It was pointed out that Cabinet had given the go-ahead for Lall to construct a hangar at CJIA in 2012 since it was believed that the services he offered were necessary. Benn said that in August 2010, Lall expressed interest in developing a hangar for his aircraft service. In December of the following year, the management of CJIA received an application for land to construct a hangar to facilitate his aircraft operations.
“He wanted to operate an Executive Jet Service and Air Ambulance Service in Guyana and presented a sound business plan to push the venture. In October 2012, Cabinet approved a lease to allow for the construction of the hangar, which to date is not completed,” Benn said.
As he clarified further the part played by local authorities, the Minister stated categorically that Lall’s company was never granted a blanket approval to operate into Guyana; rather approval was granted by GCAA on a per flight basis.
It was claimed that Exec Jet is authorised to conduct on demand flights for compensation under 4 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the company operates two Westwind 1 Jets under Air Carrier Certificate #R6QA548L, and is authorised to operate into South America among other geographic regions such as Central America and Mexico.
“Therefore, all of the flights operated into and out of Guyana by Exec Jet are legal and the company is duly authorised to conduct such flights by competent aeronautical authorities,” Benn charged.
He defended also that Exec Jet Club’s flights adhered to CJIA’s established standard operating procedures (SOPs) and was never given any special privileges at CJIA, where the airline’s staffers’ bypassed customs, immigrations and drug ranks among others.
“Additionally, at no time was any instruction given to the staff to waive the airport security procedures with regards to Exec Jet Club’s staff ingress and egress at the airport,” Benn continued. He said that CJIA’s security supervisors verified that at all times checks were carried out as is customary for all operators accessing the restricted areas at the airport.
“While these agencies can access their facilities, they cannot access the airside or restricted areas of the airport without the approval of airport security. Because the construction work is yet to be completed, the keys to the gates of the Exec Jet Club Hangar are with CJIA Security Department,” it was related.
Minister Benn insinuated however, that the Lall’s troubles may have been a blow to the aviation sector since his services allowed for cheaper flights and time-saving movement of persons within certain financial levels basically. He promised however to provide pricing for services rendered since it seemed unconceivable to reporters that a company offering private and sometimes direct flights to a location, would cost less than an ordinary carrier making various stops before its final destination.
The company has been conducting flights in and out of Guyana since 2010 and so far for this year it has conducted as much as 18 trips. It was mentioned that President Donald Ramotar would have made some of those trips with Lall and to that, Benn was unable to say whether the government would continue to access Lall’s services if he is found culpable of the charges against him.
“I cannot speculate on what the government would do in terms of its air travel arrangement,” Benn said.
The Minister also chose not to speculate as to whether Guyana would have detected the stashed cash had it arrived in at CJIA. He stated however, that given the various security measures, it is possible that the money could have been found, “We have found many things,” he told reporters. This was stated even as several pounds of cocaine are alleged to have passed through CJIA and reached the US within the past two weeks.
It was stated however that in the construction of Lall’s hangar, persons were flown in to perform tasks on the building. The Minister was unable to say whether these persons were given work permits and promised to provide the information. For now, Executive Jet Club’s hangar is still incomplete, but should have an executive lounge, pilot and crew quarters, immigration and customs station among others, the Transport Minister said.
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