The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has instituted a temporary ban on all shuttle flights in Guyana’s interior locations. The ban came into effect yesterday when it was announced by Director General of the GCAA, Retired Col. Egbert Field.
The GCAA is the regulatory body of the aviation sector in Guyana. At a press conference yesterday, Field explained that shuttling operations is the movement of cargo on an aircraft between two interior locations. He said that the decision to place a temporary ban on the activity followed a preliminary analysis done by himself and his team on the three recent plane accidents which took place on July 25, 2017, August 8, 2017 and August 27, 2017. Two of these accidents were fatal.
He said that after the second accident, a meeting was held with the local operators and the GCAA had demanded that documented procedures and policies for shuttle operations for each operator be submitted to the authority.
“As a result of the accidents and the authority’s preliminary analysis, the Authority has now taken the decision to suspend all operations until the documented procedures and policies for shuttle operations are submitted, reviewed and approved by the inspectors of this authority.”
Field said that the shuttle operations for organisations have developed rapidly over the years as a result of the changing dynamics of developmental programmes and that these operators were given permission in the early days for small scale shuttle operations.
According to the GCAA Director General, operators now find themselves engaged in larger operations that have grown rapidly. Using an interior location as Mahdia as an example, Field said that a lot of mining is done there.
As a result, it is very expensive to fly fuel from Georgetown to other areas such as Kato, a community that has a small airstrip and is inaccessible by road. “So you find a lot of miners, they would transport their fuel by road in trucks where they can take 40 barrels at one time and position them at Mahdia. Now from Mahdia to get to their particular mining site, which may be inaccessible by road, they utilise aircraft.”
Field said that commercial aircraft are utilised in this part of the operation whereby they would pick up the fuel from Mahdia and take it to the small airstrip where a mining operation may be located.
“So if the truck takes in 40 drums of fuel, to move that 40 drums of fuel to a location which is inaccessible by road, they take about 10 or 15 flights. The aircraft shuttles that fuel; either four drums at a time. So that type of operation is risky. It isn’t the normal type of operation like if you’re flying from here to Lethem, where the aircraft takes off, reaches a certain altitude and descends into Lethem. Shuttling is in areas or across mountain ranges or through mountain gorges, so it is a little more risky than just the normal run of the mill flying.”
In addition to the temporary ban, Field said that the Authority will be taking steps to increase its surveillance of air operators by conducting more ramp inspections of flights leaving Ogle. He said that the GCAA’s office at the Eugene F. Correia Airport at Ogle will have more inspectors.
“This will put a drain on our small human resource in here, but we consider it a necessary move in order to not only have more surveillance out there, but to show the travelling public that their concerns are being looked after by this authority.”
Field said that the aviation industry is growing very fast. “Where a number of years ago we had 30 or 40 aircraft, now we have about 70 plus aircraft on our register. So this means that the authority will have to increase its capacity in order to maintain the balancing level of surveillance.”
Field admitted that the halting of the shuttle operations in the interior will create some hardships for miners and inhabitants. However, he believes it is a necessary measure until all the relevant documentation can be presented so that the Authority can be assured that air operators are maintaining operation control.
Further, he said that when the review process of the procedures is completed and all elements are verified, the ban will be lifted. These elements refer to there being qualified loaders, certified engineers and that dispatchers reside at the various locations.
The Director General hopes that the submission of the procedures is done soon. He warned that any operator that decides to conduct shuttling operations while the ban is enforced will face sanctions.
Meanwhile, Field said that the Authority will host a safety symposium within the next two months. He said that this is an item that was held in 2015. He added that the Authority sees the need to host the symposium sometime in October and that the arrangements and preparations have started.
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