Last Updated on Monday, 28 August 2017, 3:49 by Denis Chabrol
In the wake of three plane crashes that claimed the lives of two pilots and resulted in injury to another in just over one month, government has ordered the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) to conduct regular random check of aircraft and crew.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon indicated that such inspections must seek to determine that the planes are serviceable and pilots do not exceed the number of flying hours per day.
“We have asked the Director of Civil Aviation for there to be more frequent levels of inspection of these aircraft, of the pilots and the facilities they use to ensure that there is a higher level of safety in these operations. We, as a small country, cannot continue to lose young men in the prime of their lives to accidents.
We are calling on the Director to increase [the] level of investigation and oversight over all of the operators to ensure that the serviceability of these aircraft is checked, that the time and hours of the pilots, which they fly must also be checked and this must not just be a one off check but a regular check and also time and again, what we call ramp checks [random checks],” the Minister of State was quoted as saying in a Ministry of the Presidency statement.
Roraima Airways’ Chief Pilot, Collin Martin died when the Britten-Norman Islander plane he was flying crashed at Eteringbang on July 25, 2017. On August 8, 2017, a Cessna 206 crashed at Eteringbang, resulting in minor injuries to Captain Dominique Waddell. The latest domestic plane crash involving a Cessna 206 plane owned by Air Services Limited occurred on August 27 just off Mahdia causing the death of Captain Imran Khan.
GCAA Director-General, Retired Colonel Egbert Field on August 10, 2017 said the age of planes does not necessarily
matter because replacement parts are “brand new” and made by original manufacturers and must be replaced after a certain number of flying hours. “I am not concerned about the age of the aircraft because the aircraft were made to have a life-span of years- sometimes thirty, forty, fifty years. What the authority concerns itself about is the quality of maintenance for the aircraft and that’s the reason why we have inspectors who go out and undertake surveillance exercises, looking at the maintenance organisations, also ensuring the personnel within the organisations are properly qualified so we keep a careful eye on the maintenance of aircraft,” he said.
He said substitute parts are not allowed to be installed on planes but instead “only genuine parts are placed on the aircraft and that is one of the items of our inspection- to ensure that the parts changed have genuine and new parts placed on the aircraft so we are not overly concerned about the age of the aircraft.”
The Director-General of the GCAA said “there have been minor infringements but things that we would consider ti endanger the safety of aircraft”. Those include the submission of inaccurate information which the authority determines whether it was deliberately done or a genuine mistake.
Field, a former inspector with the Caribbean Aviation Safety and Security Oversight System (CASSOS) and Flight Operations and Oversight Manager of the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority, said a Certificate of Airworthiness is only issued after the aircraft are inspected and documents about the maintenance of the planes and equipment aboard are submitted. “So, if at Ogle (Airport) we have seventy or eighty aircraft, rest assured that each aircraft, at least once a year, is inspected by the inspectors of the Civil Aviation Authority,” he said.
The engines of crashed planes are usually shipped overseas to the manufacturers as part of investigations.
Minister Harmon said that safety is a major concern for the administration and it is for this reason that the Government has been expending large amounts money in the development of airstrips, particularly those located in the hinterland. “We have expended quite a sum of money on the conditions of our hinterland airstrips. In the 2016 and 2017 Budgets, huge sums of monies were allocated for the development of these airstrips out of these concerns not only for the pilots themselves but for the passengers that they carry. We want to see a safe aviation industry so that the people who have to use these aircraft, that there must be a very safe corridor,” he noted.
Minister Harmon said, “On behalf of the Government I wish to express our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Imran Khan. The entire administration wishes to express its bereavement to the family. We would also like to send our condolences to the crew of the Air Services Limited and to the pilots. I know it is a sad time for the company,” he said.
Khan’s body, which was extracted from the densely forested and mountainous area by members of the Guyana Defence Force Special Forces, is expected to be flown from Mahdia to Georgetown early Monday morning.