Getaway pilot has murky history

Pilot and operator of Oxford Aviation, Munidat “Raj” Persaud

By Alva Solomon

AS LOCAL authorities continue to examine the legal basis on which to tread, reports have suggested that the operators of two aircraft which departed Guyana without authorisation on Saturday had committed several aviation violations while operating here.The pilot of one of the two aircraft, Munedat “Raj” Persaud, along with another pilot whose only name was given as “Vladimir”, departed the Eugene F. Correia International Airport (EFCIA), unknown to the authorities here, in two Cessna 206 aircraft bearing registration 8R-GTP and GMP.

The two flew undetected to Grenada, and later island-hopped their way further north to the island of Anguilla. This newspaper was informed that one of the aircraft was prevented from moving onward, while the other was allowed to depart for San Juan, Puerto Rico the following day.

Persons within the aviation sector told this publication on Monday that Persaud had always “bullied” his way while operating here. The pilot has, reportedly on several occasions, provided incorrect information to the authorities; and one aviation official noted that such violations are known within aviation circles.

Same occurred on Saturday when the pilot departed from these shores minus customs or immigration declarations. In addition, Persaud and his colleague flew through Trinidad’s airspace without authorisation.

Calls to the numbers provided for Oxford Aviation at Ogle on Monday went unanswered. According to reports, the company folded in recent months and the operator was planning to relocate the two aircraft to the United States, where the company operates a flight school.

Prior to last weekend’s incident, the company’s operations here have reportedly been dogged by several notable accidents, in one of which its aircraft was damaged beyond repair.

A Guyanese by birth, Persaud, during an interview with this newspaper in February 2011, had said he decided to start operating here because he had seen the need for a service to hinterland areas, and he had started with two aircraft. Shortly after, however, the company lost an aircraft in an incident at Ekereku, in Region Seven. On board then were five persons, some of whom were employees of Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). All the passengers managed to escape with minor injuries after the plane ran off the runway at Ekereku Bottom during take-off.

That aircraft, the first of two owned by Oxford, was damaged beyond repair, and subsequent investigations established that it had crashed as a result of pilot error — the pilot had overloaded the plane. He had suffered only minor injuries, Persaud confirmed at the time.

Then, in January 2010, the pilot of another aircraft operated by the company landed the aircraft short of the Baramita airstrip in Region One.

“The facts are that the aircraft landed short of the runway. Why he landed short of the runway, we don’t know. From what I was told, the aeroplane was coming in to land at minimal air speed, and he landed short of the runway; and part of the consequence was that he hit a ditch and lost control,” Persaud had said at a press conference at that time.

It is unclear whether the incident at Ekereku Bottom was related to another incident which involved another aircraft operated by another local company — Domestic Aviation.
That aircraft, a Cessna 172 model aircraft bearing registration 8R-JIL, had sustained structural damage during a collision with an aircraft operated by Oxford Aviation.

That incident resulted in pilot Orlando Charles of Domestic Aviation taking the matter to the courts to be resolved. The active High Court proceedings barred Persaud from operating the two aircraft, and this is seen as the genesis for the pilot’s actions on Saturday morning.

Reports are that the two pilots, using their airport pass, passed through the security at the airport and informed security personnel that they were going to the aircraft to place something onboard.

The incident has resulted in criticism of the security arrangement at the airport.