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Concerns raised over Guyana air safety and service quality
Published on August 22, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version


By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor

GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- Following recent air crashes, the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) held an emergency meeting with stakeholders of the aviation industry on August 11. At the end of the meeting, GCAA lavished praise on Guyana for having a “low aircraft accident record.” However, aviation expert, Tomas Chlumecky, disagreed with GCAA’s conclusion.

Guyana-based carriers may eventually be blacklisted by the European Union because of high accident rate in that country, Chlumecky said.

The meeting was chaired by the director general of GCAA, Lt Col. Egbert Field, at the Authority’s Kingston head office.

According to a press release from GCAA, the meeting was called to address the many issues affecting the aviation industry. Among the issues discussed were the recent accidents involving Roraima’s Britten-Norman Islander, which crashed on July 25, 2017, on approach to the Eteringbang airstrip runway and Wings Aviation’s Cessna single-engine plane, which crashed on August 8, 2017, after taking off from the same airstrip.

Meanwhile, the director general noted that, while the accidents are tragic, “the country can be considered fortunate to have such a low aircraft accident record, given the volatile environment in which the domestic aircraft operate. However, the aim remains to reduce the current number of aircraft accidents to zero and work towards maintaining same.”

However, Chlumecky disagreed with GCAA’s conclusion that Guyana has a “low aircraft accident record.”

He wrote, “Another crash in Guyana; too many since 2014. It is now six accidents, five dead.”

Since 2007, Guyana, he said, has had 12 accidents, and 10 dead.

And he questioned if it is time for Guyana to be placed on the EU blacklist. He said that two Caribbean airlines are on the EU blacklist because they are “considered by the EU too dangerous for EU citizens to fly with.”

They include Blue Wing Airlines, a Surinamese company that has “three cheap Russian AN-28, and involved in accidents in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and 27 dead in total”. The other is Mustique Airways registered in St Vincent and the Grenadines: “reason not known, but has to be serious to be on the list.” Blue Wings is reported to be the owner of Fly Allways Airline of Suriname, which flies to Cuba.

GCAA also questioned the frequent flight delays being experienced by passengers of Dynamic, Caribbean and Fly Jamaica Airlines. Airlines were encouraged to improve their services and safety.

“We are moving into an expanding industry, we are moving into more sophisticated aircraft, soon we’ll have the offshore helicopters operating... ensure that your qualities and standards are beyond question… I am therefore calling upon you to assist us in our venture of making this industry a safe and accident free industry,” Field said.

Guyana’s aviation industry is booming amidst major oil and gas discoveries, which may bring economic development to the country. The country will soon open a larger and modern airport to the tune of about US$200 million. However, Guyana is struggling to attract reputable international carriers.

Except COPA Airlines, all other passenger carriers servicing Guyana are using very old and uncomfortable aircraft. CAL and Fly Jamaica aircraft’s average age is about 20 years. Customers often complain about “urine like” cabins. In addition, they lack inflight entertainment and food service is poor. Yet, airfares from New York to Guyana, the most lucrative route, average US$900 roundtrip currently and it’s already fixed for the upcoming Christmas season at US$1,000.
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