Aviation Authority Monitoring Aircraft Incidents

By Alva Solomon

The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has been monitoring recent aircraft incidents—although the agency remains without the services of a flight operations inspector, which is a key post within the aviation sector.

On Wednesday, a light Cessna aircraft operated by local airline Air Services Limited (ASL) sustained minor structural damage shortly after landing at the Kaow Island airstrip in the Essequibo River. Only the pilot was on board and he escaped with minor injuries. The aircraft remained on the ground at Kaow Island yesterday and was expected to undergo repairs as the GCAA investigates the incident.

The incident came a week after another incident at the Eteringbang airstrip, in Region 7, in which a Cessna Caravan aircraft operated by ASL skidded off the runway at the border community shortly after landing. The aircraft was summoned to the area by the company to transport parts for another in its fleet, which had sustained minor damage to one of its propellers earlier that day. The latter’s propeller came into contact with an engine, which was left by a miner near the runway.’,’

Within the past two years, there have been several similar incidents, some of which go unreported aviation sources noted yesterday.

On January 17 this year, a light Cessna aircraft crash landed at the Baramita airstrip in the North West District (NWD). The Oxford Aviation aircraft, a six-seater Cessna 206 bearing the registration 8R-GRT, crashed on landing at the interior aerodrome, sometime after 9:30 am that day. The pilot was the only person on board and he escaped with only minor injuries.

In mid-March this year, a light single-engine Maule aircraft operated by a Seventh Day Adventist mission in Guyana crashed during the afternoon hours on May 17 at the Paruima airstrip in Region 7. No one sustained major injuries in that incident.

Last August, pilot Ayube Mazarally along with five passengers escaped with minor injuries when another aircraft operated by Oxford Aviation, crashed while departing the Ekereku Top aerodrome in Region 7. The aircraft, a Cessna 206, sustained major damage.

Director General of the GCAA Zulficar Mohammed told this newspaper yesterday that the aviation body is mandated to investigate such incidents. He said that if it is determined that pilot error plays a part during the investigations, the pilot is notified and is required to undergo remedial work before being given the go-head to fly. He said that on most occasions, the pilot’s licence is suspended for a month. The company with which the pilot is employed is mandated by law to lodge a report on the incident with the GCAA.

Of importance, Mohammed noted, is that the aircraft manufacturer is also notified of the incident and plays a major part of the investigation. Mohammed said that information, which may be in the form of pictures taken of the site and records of the aircraft movement as well as physical aircraft parts which may have been damaged during the incident, are sent to the manufacturer for examination. The entire process, he noted, is costly and rigorous, and he added that the time period within which the investigations are concluded depends on the nature of the incident. “It will most likely depend on the type of incident and how long the manufacturer will take to do their part of the investigation,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the GCAA has been without the services of a flight operations inspector for several years. It is a critical human resource post, whose holder is mandated to keep abreast of the operations of all aircraft operators. Several years ago, a number of domestic airlines expressed dissatisfaction with the individual who was holding the post. He subsequently resigned from the position, citing differences with the semi-autonomous agency.

Flight operations officers are responsible for manning and maintaining complete and accurate records of company aircraft movements and of any significant occurrences affecting the company’s operations. Among the functions of the personnel are to keep complete and accurate records of aircraft movements and of any occurrences which may affect operations, maintain and amend all legally required aviation documentation as well as to liaise with airlines, aircraft leasing companies and brokers to obtain aircraft for charter purposes. He is required to ensure that the pilots’ proficiency examinations and maintain their required flight ratings.

Mohammed noted yesterday that the position remains vacant even though it is being advertised locally and regionally. He said that many aviation territories regionally and internationally have had difficulty in sourcing personnel to fill the specific position.

At the moment, the GCAA hires flight inspectors from the Caribbean through the umbrella body Caribbean Aviation Safety and Security Oversight System to carry out work fitting the job description here and Mohammed noted that this can be costly.

At the same time, he said that in the absence of a permanent flight inspector, “we look at all the local operators to ensue that they maintain the required levels of safety are maintained.” He noted that inspections are undertaken by aviation specialists regularly within the GCAA. He noted too that the local companies have systems in place to address safety issues.

The GCAA has in its employ a safety officer or what Mohammed termed quality control officer, who consults with the local operators on their aircraft operations.