The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) on Wednesday announced that shuttle flights between interior locations have been suspended with immediate effect until domestic airlines submit policies and procedures on such operations for approval.
“As a result of the accidents and the authority’s preliminary analysis, the authority has now taken the decision to suspend all operations until the documented procedures and policies for shuttle operations are submitted, reviewed and approved by the inspectors of this authority,” GCAA Director General, Retired Lieutenant Colonel Egbert Field said.
No specific time frame was given for the ban to be lifted, but he expected the domestic airlines to submit manuals and other documents to the authority very shortly. Field said the GCAA would match them against International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) documents and regulations following which inspectors would conduct physical checks at the locations. “When we approve those documents, indirectly we are saying to the operator ‘this is how we expect you to operate’ so that document is like a contract between the operator and the Civil Aviation Authority,” he said.
Police and soldiers in the interior would be asked to be on the lookout for shuttle flights during the period of suspension. He warned that anyone found violating the temporary ban risked having the airline’s Air Operators Certificate revoked or the pilot suspended. The announcement followed a meeting earlier Wednesday with the private aircraft operators.
He added that the procedures would require the airlines to state, among other things, refueling procedures qualified loaders, certified engineers and dispatchers. He suggested that the authority has received unofficial information that each 45 gallon fuel drum is in some instances overloaded by five gallons, resulting in overweight of the planes.
Field said the decision was taken based on the fact that the common thread among the three recent air crashes was shuttle flights over Guyana’s rugged, mountainous interior. Two of those incidents resulted in the deaths of Pilots Collin Martin and Imran Khan.
While the GCAA boss said domestic airlines did not welcome the decision to ground domestic flights between interior locations, he maintained that the move was a correct one in the interest of safety. He also conceded that the suspension would impact adversely on the mining sector and residents while at the same time stressing that aviation safety was paramount. “I know that the halting of the shuttle operations in the interior will create some hardship for miners and also inhabitants but we think this a necessary measure to halt ut until we can have documented the procedures and the policies by operators so that we are assured that the air operators are maintaining operational control of not only their organisation at the main base but also of their operation where shuttling is conducted,” he said.
At the time when permission had been granted for shuttle operations, he said there were 30 to 40 planes, but now there are more than 70 planes on the country’s civil aviation register.
He acknowledged that the GCAA does not have the capacity to station inspectors at interior locations and so random inspections would have to be conducted. He said inspectors would be stationed at the Eugene F. Correia International Airport to conduct ramp inspections on outgoing flights. “This will put a drain on our small human resource in here but we consider it a necessary move in order to not only have more surveillance out there but to show the travelling public that their concerns are being looked after by this authority,” he said.
The GCAA plans to host an aviation safety symposium in October, 2017.