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GDF beefing up Air Corps

The GDF’s Bell 412 helicopter (GINA photo)

Chinese experts are here assisting the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) in extending the life of the Chinese-built Y-12 airplane and the large Bell 412 helicopter that is suitable for search and rescue operations is undergoing repairs, a top military official said Thursday.

“We have a team from China now that is conducting some checks on the Y-12 and the maintenance is geared towards extending the life of that aircraft by another five years,” said GDF Chief -of-Staff, Brigadier Mark Phillips when asked by Demerara Waves Online News.

He said the Bell 412 was due for some repairs and may be “up and running” in another month.

That contrasts slightly with an account given by Transport Minister, Robeson Benn who said that flying that chopper during the operation for the Trans Guyana Airways (TGA) plane crash near Olive Creek that left two persons dead would have been too risky. “There was a view it wasn’t that it couldn’t be flown but flying it in the state without the proper change-out would have posed an additional risk and so they are finalising their activity on the maintenance side and it will be ready again just now,” he said.

Benn recalled that the GDF had advised that the Bell 412 could have been flown

Two smaller Bell helicopters purchased during the violent crime spree, experts say, are unsuitable for rappelling troops into dense jungle during search and rescue missions.

Against the background of that chopper giving repeated problems for some time now, Phillips said the GDF should still keep it among its air assets. “In the short term, yes, we should still retain it and the effort is towards making it serviceable again,” he said

The Chief-of-Staff said the GDF would be working with the Guyana government in the mid to long term towards acquiring a new helicopter but he declined to say whether it would be of a similar size.

Asked about the Skyvan, Phillips said the engine has been repaired and was undergoing post-maintenance flights as part of steps for acquiring airworthiness certification. “You’ll soon see that aircraft traversing the interior, supporting the Guyana Defence Force on our frontiers,” he said.

He debunked assertions in some sections of the aviation community that the GDF’s aircraft were being used for commercial operations. “I am not aware of any aircraft of the GDF being used for commercial activities I speak,” he said.
 
Phillips said the GDF’s aircraft would engage in commercial activity only after “we would have satisfied the requirements” for the defence force.