By Alva Solomon
Domestic airliner Roraima Airways has unveiled its Britten Norman Trislander aircraft, and the company has said it plans to invest in several models of the aircraft to boost its aviation capacity aimed at increasing the capacity in domestic air travel.This aircraft seats 18 persons, including its crew; has the Golden Jubilee 50th Anniversary Logo emblazoned on its nose; and notably, was named in honour of the late Captain Alvin Clarke, a career pilot who had been attached to the airline for decades.
Renowned as a skilled airman in nightly medical evacuation flights, the name of the late Captain Clarke is conspicuously plastered on the aircraft’s tail.
Roraima’s principal, Captain Gerald “Gerry” Gouveia, told a gathering, which in included Minister of Public Telecommunications, with responsibility for Tourism, Catherine Hughes; and Junior Minister of Public Infrastructure Annette Ferguson, at the company’s hanger at Ogle yesterday that the late Clarke flew for decades into the hinterland communities on humanitarian missions.
He said many children were born in aircraft piloted by himself and Clarke at nights, and there are many “Gerry Gouveias” and “Alvin Clarkes” in the hinterland, as parents have named their children after the two.
“We now know that aircraft like the Trislander could in fact go into all those runways, and the cost is going to come down; and in fact that is all what we have been looking for all the time”, Gouveia said.
He said the Trislander runs at an operational cost of US$500,000, and the company will operate five (5) of these aircraft over a period of time.
He noted that his airline staff is experiencing a transition phase as regards handling the Trislander.
The company also officially unveiled its maintenance department. According to Gouveia, Roraima had employed the services of the Caribbean Aviation Maintenance Services (CAMS) for some 20 years, but as Roraima Airways grows, its in-house services are also expanding. He added that another factor in the investment is rooted in the frequent medevac flights and the need for round-the-clock maintenance.
He said he has been flying for 40 years, during which, “we have always found an aircraft that is suited for the objective realities of the Guyanese environment”.
He said the company invested in aircraft which matched the reality on the ground, that is, the runways. He said that several aircraft types have been operated over the years, and he noted that he was asked why the company didn’t invest in the Trislander earlier.
He said the Trislander aircraft is one of several which brought down the price of air transportation in Guyana. He said with the insertion of Cessna Caravan and the Trislander into the local tourism industry, the cost to travel to the famous Kaieteur Falls dropped from US$200 to US$145, the latter price being offered by Roraima presently.
He also noted that Minister Ferguson travelled recently across the hinterland, and according to him, the official would have had a first-hand look and better understanding of aviation life in those areas.
In her remarks, Minister Ferguson told the gathering about investments such as the Trislander: “Indeed, it will help to boost the aviation sector,” she testified. She said that last week she had travelled to several airstrips in Region Seven (7) to see first-hand life experiences of those persons living there.
She assured those gathered that the administration will work to improve the standard of hinterland airstrips. “So we will be working to ensure that our airstrips are properly developed, because based on the observations I had, many of the airstrips, they are not asphalt…they are made out of sand”, she said.
Ferguson also expressed hope that young men and women can be inspired to join the sector, as she pointed to the young staff at Roraima.
Minister Hughes described yesterday’s occasion as special. She noted that she was excited about the new aircraft, and that one of the challenges of local travel centres around the cost.
“Of course it’s challenging to promote a tourism market and a product when so many of your own people whom you need to give their own personal experiences of visiting those locations have not had the opportunity to visit,” she added.
She said the prayers of many in the sector are being answered, and she noted the drop in the cost of travel to the local tourist destinations. “That augers well, because it means that more Guyanese hopefully will be able to visit those locations and really appreciate what we have to offer”, Hughes noted.
Hughes lauded the medical evacuation services offered by Roraima Airways as she recalled making a phone call to Gouveia on March 17, 2013, requesting his assistance in ferrying out her husband, Attorney Nigel Hughes, who had had a heart attack in the Rupununi that day. She said the closest airstrip to the location was an hour and a half away from her husband, but good prevailed over the situation.
At yesterday’s occasion, it was noted that Dynamic Airways, the international airline which is handled by Roraima Airways ground handling services at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), will emblazon the Golden Jubilee Logo on its aircraft as the country approaches its 50th Independence Anniversary on May 26.