PRESIDENT David Granger has called on the Board of Directors of the Ogle International Airport to rename it the ‘Eugene F. Correia International Airport’ in recognition of Guyana’s first Minister of Communications, Shipping and Aviation.President Granger made the call at the commissioning of Trans Guyana Airways’ brand new US$4M Raytheon Beechcraft 1900D Aircraft at the Ogle International Airport, last evening.
The President’s charge was followed by loud applause as he explained the need to recognise those who have pioneered the aviation industry. “I pay tribute to Eugene Franklin Correia and I have the honour to urge the directors of the Ogle International Airport Incorporated to rename this important, dynamic and forward-looking facility, the Eugene F. Correia International Airport,” said President Granger.
The President dubbed the acquisition of the Beechcraft 1900D as a “good move” noting that it adds not only to the company’s fleet of aircraft but also to the national inventory of approximately 70 operated by dozens of private companies.
“The acquisition of this aircraft represents an expression of confidence in the future of domestic commercial aviation. This aircraft undoubtedly will improve the reliability, quality and competitiveness of aviation services.”
The hinterland, President Granger emphasised, is an essential element in Guyana’s development. “It is the frontier of our economic progress,” he declared, while urging stakeholders to “unlock the hinterland faster” and in a sustainable manner so that the future generation can benefit.
“The hinterland is characterised by poor levels of infrastructure and poor levels of human development,” the President said.
Huge economic and social disparities separate the hinterland from the coastland and, as such, government intends to pay full attention to the reduction of inequalities by improving communications and transportation.
“Domestic Aviation has proven to be one way or one of the keys to unlocking this potential, bringing our people together, developing our communities and exploiting our natural resources,” the president stated.
As such, reliability and regularity in the aviation industry is critical to the development of many far-flung communities that are isolated and can only be reached by air.
“We intend to end isolation, we intend to intensify air transport to the rest of the country,” President Granger added. Currently, some 13,500 passengers pass through Ogle International Airport Incorporated on a monthly basis with approximately 50,000 kilograms of cargo being transported on a daily basis. With this amount of traffic, it is imperative upon all stakeholders, government and private investors to provide reliable and safe service. “We will ensure this sector continues to expand and provide improved services to all Guyanese.”
President Granger gave his unwavering commitment to the aviation industry and encouraged more private investment as government will complement the stakeholders’ investments.
Government, he said, remains committed to working with the aviation industry to achieve its four main objectives as outlined in the Aircraft Owners’ Association Draft Aviation Policy dated 2014,
Namely, ensuring that there is independent aircraft accident investigations; enhancing the capacity of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority, expanding hinterland aerodromes rehabilitation programme and establishing a permanent national search and rescue agency.
President Granger stressed that with more than 25 cases of aircraft accidents over the past decade there is a real need for prompt and proper investigations to be conducted “so that we can learn lessons from them and improve our legislation.” Safety and security in the industry are overriding concerns, “we want safe and secure skies in Guyana,” the President stressed.
He urged that stakeholders move to boost institutional and technological capabilities of the GCAA as rigorous safety standards are critical. On the expansion of the hinterland aerodromes, the President believes that all hinterland locations must be reached and as such the routes of the aviation sector must be expanded to facilitate that. “Government intends to devote considerable resources to boost the infrastructure in the hinterlands. We intend to rehabilitate and improve aerodromes and this will be provided for in our budget next year.” More access, he said, will have a multiplying effect on economic activities coupled with improved services being provided to hinterland communities.
The need for a permanent national search and rescue agency was fully endorsed by Granger who opined that there are too many aviation accidents. He believes that once an accident occurs, the industry must be in a position to react as quickly as possible.
“Ogle can grow into an important sub-regional hub – not only for 120 airstrips in our own countries but also what we call A-Z territories,” he assured the audience.
“We can see clearly now, we can look forward to a bright future without turbulence in this aviation sector,” the President posited.
Meantime, subject minister David Patterson in brief remarks informed members of the industry that his ministry has adopted most of the recommendations proffered and is working feverishly to ensure that finances are available to support the many upgrades. “We plan to continue the development of the aviation sector,” he said while announcing that Government will be launching, for the first time in Guyana, surveillance services in the national airspace.
This, he said, will begin in November. “Guyana will be the first country in the Caribbean and South America to introduce the use of automatic dependent surveillance broadcast and we have made provisions in our 2016 budget to continue this project towards completion.”
He, like President Granger, acknowledged the need for hinterland airstrips to be rehabilitated and maintained to accommodate larger aircraft. He hopes that with the support being provided by government that ICAO compliance can be improved while Guyana elevates to a category one airport.
Tourism Minister Cathy Hughes believes the acquisition of the aircraft represents a significant milestone for the company, and also for the country. She noted that at the moment the aircraft is unable to fly to many hinterland locations because of the length of many airstrips. The Raytheon Beechcraft 1900D Aircraft can only fly to Annai, Lethem and Karanambo. She called on the relevant authorities to have all other airstrips upgraded and lengthened over the next few months so that they can accommodate large aircraft such as the Beechcraft. “Intensify airstrip rehabilitation,” the tourism minister said as she underscored the benefits of doing same.
The benefits are two, Hughes said noting that it would provide a major solution to transport the peoples of the hinterland regions especially where there are medical emergencies.
Also, she noted that with a growing tourism industry, access to larger air carriers will readily see more tourists exploring Guyana’s natural beauty. She noted that the aircraft would be better poised to transport more tourists to Kaieteur Falls and “hopefully at a cheaper cost”.
At the moment, the airstrip at Kaieteur National Park has to be extended to allow larger aircraft to operate there. Should the Beechcraft begin to fly that route, it will take approximately 30 minutes from the Ogle International Airport and there is a possibility that the cost will be significantly lower.
“Domestic and inter-regional travel will now be taken to a new level,” she said dubbing the upcoming 50th Independence celebrations as a critical period where members of the diaspora will be visiting Guyana by the thousands. “It is a truly beautiful and modern aircraft…the only way from here is up,” Minister Hughes posited.
The 19-seater pressurised, twin- engined turboprop, fixed- wing aircraft is one of the most popular 19-passenger airliners in the world and is powered by two Pratt and Whitney Canada Turboprop engines, each rated at 1279 shaft horse power and cruised at about 280 knots, about the same speed as LIAT’s ATRs.
The aircraft is certified to operate up to an altitude of 25,000 feet and can fly non-stop charter to Puerto Rico, Manaus, Belem and as far as Aruba. Trans Guyana announced that from October 1, the aircraft will be available for both day and night international charters. The company will also introduce the Beechcraft on its Lethem service from the same date.
With the continued growth of the Ogle International Airport as a regional destination, CEO of Trans Guyana Airways Michael Correia Jnr. called for the strengthening of the runway there. He said there are 30 international flights per week with daily services to Barbados, Suriname and Trinidad.
“TGA will also be looking at providing international connecting flights to Boa Vista Airport in the future. Night operations at Ogle International Airport are our new reality,” he said noting that the Airport is now open until 11 pm every night to accommodate LIAT’s daily flights to Trinidad.
He too believes that more needs to be done to improve the existing hinterland airstrips noting that “the condition of our hinterland airstrips is worse now, than when GAC operated its HS748 50-Seater aircraft in the interior, in the 1970s.”
The Airline Owners Association of Guyana, he said, worked over the years to identify the main airstrips that are in need of priority rehabilitation and maintenance but to no avail. “I can say publicly that we asked for US$7.5M to be invested over a three-year period, at least to put us back on track with the GAC days. Sadly, we were continuously ignored by our past minister.”
He believes that with support from government, the airline industry can be elevated to a standard it should have reached years ago.
By Ariana Gordon