Guyana Defence Force to open aviation school for Caribbean

Last Updated on Saturday, 8 July 2023, 16:37 by Denis Chabrol

The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) will by next year establish an aviation school to train military and civilian pilots for the local and Caribbean markets, President Irfaan Ali announced on Saturday.

“I have authorised work to be concluded before the third quarter of this year to have a full presentation to the Defence Board of an aviation school-military and civil aviation school to be run by the Air Corps to be managed by the Air Corps,” he said.

Dr Ali said he hoped that the plan would be approved before year-end so that the school begin operations by the first quarter of 2024 to train military, security and civilian pilots.

His announcement was made at a ceremony to officially welcome the  the refurbished Beechcraft King Air 350, which had illegally entered Guyana in 2017, and a brand new Bell 412 EPI helicopter. President Ali and his delegation earlier this week flew aboard the Beechcraft to Trinidad to attend the CARICOM summit.

The President said Guyana would be taking advantage of retired aviators from the Air Corps and others in the Caribbean to build “one of the most modern, advanced aviation schools in the Caribbean here in Guyana to provide training for all of the Caribbean.”

Dr Ali said the Defence Board has already decided that Guyana would acquire Dornier 228-model planes from the India-headquartered Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). That contract, he said, was expected to be signed before year-end.

The HAL-made planes, which are expected to replace outdated Skyvan, will support the two Bell 412 EPI helicopters, Beechcraft and soon to be acquired mothership for the Coast Guard to protect Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) including the countering of illegal fishing. “We know from information that has been shared with us that we have been losing a lot of money from illegal fishing in the EEZ,” he said.

A Coast Guard patrol vessel that is being manufactured by the American company, Metal Shark, is due to arrive in Guyana soon.

Dr Ali said government has already spent a lot of unspecified amount of money on training personnel for the Bell chopper and Beechcraft plane and would be spending more on additional training for use and maintenance of those planes.

“Perhaps, the greatest asset we have invested in for both the Beechcraft and this new 412 would be the human resource asset of the Guyana Defence Force. We have invested heavily in ensuring that we have the right complement of human resource personnel and also the right level of training,” he said.

Meanwhile, the President said the Defence Board has authorised the GDF Air Corps to take over the operations and maintenance of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) hangar at Ogle, East Coast Demerara to provide aviation services to the Air Corps as well as the Guyana Police Force. “For aggressive policing, we also need assets to support our police along the coast and we’ll be investing in pieces of assets to  support policing work and the military, the Defence Force, will have the responsibility of ensuring that we adequately trained police officers to be part of this transition,” he said.

Dr Ali called for a change in workplace culture to ensure there is a focus on safety,  responsibility and discipline. He said the leadership of Air Corps would be held accountable. “We also have to break the tradition of losing highly skilled personnel after we would have invested heavily in training, heavily in building capacity,” he said. He hoped the school would provide an opportunity for continued service.

Hundreds of former GDF pilots and engineers have gone on to work at major regional and international airlines.