Consciousness of the economic, social, political and defence importance of Civil Aviation has been quietly growing since Art Williams brought his aeroplane to Guyana in the late 1920s and laid the foundation of a Civil Aviation Industry. An aeroplane in flight was so novel an event in the late 1930s and early 1940s that children came out to see it. It was only in the 1940s during World War II when an American military airbase was established at Atkinson Field, the site of the present Cheddi Jagan airport, that the Guyanese population became accustomed to seeing aircraft in flight. The aeroplanes of the 1940s were small twin-engined very much like the aircraft used today for domestic flights.
Since the Civil Aviation Industry grew up in a quietly progressive milieu without any fanfare, it tended to be taken for granted by the population. For instance, Agricultural industries like sugar and rice or Mining for gold or bauxite or Tourism were well known and were featured in the CXC textbooks but little was said of the Civil Aviation Industry and its importance.
Civil Aviation is of fundamental importance to the economic and social life of Guyana and with the advent of the petroleum mining industry, its importance is being unfolded since without Civil Aviation there could be no Oil Industry. Aviation is used in Agriculture to spray crops and sew seeds and is essential for the development of the Mining Industry. Most importantly, people and goods are transported in Guyana and overseas by aircraft; in the case of passenger travel, aircraft has completely replaced boat travel. Since Guyana’s Hinterland is very sparsely populated, it once appeared to one of our predatory neighbours that it was bona vacantia which they could seize with impunity. Regular Civil Aviation flights to various parts of the Interior asserted a Governmental and people’s presence countrywide and possessed the country for the nation.
Civil Aviation provides direct employment in its several sectors of activities such as pilots, engineers, air hostesses, porters and so on. The Industry is under the aegis of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) which is led by the very able Director General, Lt Col (ret’d) Egbert Field who has dealt with foreign counterparts, foreign airways and International Aviation bodies with the same success as he has achieved on the local scene. At this point, we would focus on the Air Traffic Controllers a sector of GCAA to which Col Field has devoted special attention.
On 20th October last, the International Day of Air Traffic Controllers was commemorated worldwide and Col Field had issued a comprehensive and elegantly written message on the occasion. This year, a wider cross-section of the public including the business community has become more aware of the importance of Air Traffic Controllers. Air Traffic Controllers are stationed at both the Ogle and Cheddi Jagan International Airports and it is they who make flights possible without chaos and accidents. It may come as a surprise to learn that every day 185 flights or 67,000 flights per year are made from these airports. This implies that every air traffic controller has to be in the best of health and with full mental alertness when on duty.
In his message on the occasion of International Day of Air Traffic Controllers, Director General Field not only paid tribute to dedicated service of the Controllers but outlined some of the improved equipment they have in use: “The complex choreography of arranging aircraft in the sky” said Director General Field, “and the technology required to do so safely and efficiently, has evolved significantly. Over the last decade, Government and the GCAA have been investing heavily to modernize and transform the Guyana Air Traffic Control System. Some of these investments include the acquisition of a modern 3D Flight simulator which is used to train aspiring Air Traffic Controllers and Aeronautical Management Officers; the installation of an ADS -B System in four locations in the hinterland to track the movement of aircraft all across Guyana’s airspace, and to assist in search and rescue operations; and the upgrade of the Instrument Landing System at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. The GCAA continues to invest heavily in training to ensure that its staff remains equipped with current knowledge to confront the challenges faced in the Industry”.
The consumers join with the rest of the public in expressing their appreciative thanks to the Air Traffic Controllers for the vital role they are playing in national development. We are also gratified that the nation has become more aware of the importance of the GCAA.