GCAA shuttling operations banBy Samuel SukhnandanThe Guyana Civil Aviation Authority’s (GCAA’s) decision to suspend all shuttling operations to the interior has been described as an unnecessary knee-jerk reaction.Commenting on the decision, Captain Gerald “Gerry” Gouveia, Managing Director of Roraima Airways, told Guyana Times on Thursday that he sees no basis for the suspension, nor was there any real analysis done.“I believe it was unnecessary. What this is doing is not hurting the operators, but the people in the hinterland; because these operations brought down the cost of living in the hinterland in Guyana tremendously,” he explained.Gouveia said shuttling, which is basically short flights to transport goods and fuel between interior airstrips, does not cause accidents. He said, “Pilots should obey and observe the same rules of flying, same technical operations of the plane, and same respect for safety altitudes.”Managing Director of Roraima Airways, Captain Gerry GouveiaDirector General of GCAA, Egbert FieldHe opined that instead of suspending the operations, there needs to be increased operational control and oversight, monitoring of pilots’ duty times, and establishment of a proper search-and-rescue system. In addition to the foregoing, he said, runways in the interior region should be improved, and there needs to be more training given in regard to air safety requirements.The businessman argued that the suspension should not have been triggered by the three recent planes crashes; GCAA needs to get to the root of the issue.In fact, a pilot attached to Roraima Airways had perished in one of those recent plane crashes, but Gouveia claims that each of the three crashes has its own peculiarities, and there is no correlation; a fact he said would be determined by at the GCAA the end of its process of investigations.Although concerns have emanated from certain sections of society regarding shuttle planes being overloaded during operations — which may have caused the recent incidents, Gouveia has said he doubts that is the case, because, based on the information he got, all three of the crashed planes were empty.Asked whether he thinks there are enough stringent measures in place to prevent accidents, he told this newspaper that the local aviation sector is right now safer than it ever was before.“Guyana has the most advanced and biggest domestic (aviation) sector in the Caribbean. Because of the size of our country, the operators and the private sector have responded not only to bring in more planes, but to bring relief to the people of the hinterland,” he pointed out.The GCAA on Wednesday ordered that all domestic shuttle operations be suspended until operators can provide Standard Operational Manuals and other documents showing how they conduct their business. These documents would have to be reviewed and approved by the GCAA before operations can be resumed.This move comes in light of the three recent crashes in the local aviation sector that resulted in the deaths of two pilots. All of the planes crashed while on shuttle operations. The GCAA met with domestic operators, but the decision to suspend shuttling did not go down “too good” with the operators.Director General of GCAA, Egbert Field, noted that the decision is necessary, since shuttle operations have expanded over the years, and this is the first time it is going to be fully regularised. The GCAA boss acknowledged the impact the decision would have on the mining industry as well as on some Indigenous communities.No specific period has been given for the ban to be lifted, but Fields has said he is hopeful the operators would submit their documents in a timely fashion. He added that some indicated that they were in the process of compiling those documents, and would be submitting them soon.This newspaper was told by a senior aviator that a meeting was held on Thursday evening with pilots from across the country, to put things in order to lift the suspension.That apart, a high level team from the Eugene F. Correia International Airport met with GCAA officials on Thursday to come to an amicable solution in regard to getting to the root causes of the recent accidents and to strengthen the safety system at the airport and with its operators.