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Night flights called off

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Night flights called off

Unread post by bimjim » Tue Feb 03, 2009

http://www.kaieteurnews.com/2009/02/03/ ... alled-off/

Night flights called off
February 3, 2009 | By knews
… as Air traffic controllers strike bites deep

All-night flights have been cancelled at Guyana’s lone international airport because only one air traffic controller and one engineer are manning the entire navigation system at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri.

Up to midnight last evening, the entire airport was shut down because there was no controller to manage the system.

Flights arriving at the airport in the evenings are now rescheduled to touch down during the morning hours.

Yesterday, it was almost chaos as the lone air traffic controller, Director Chitrani Heeralall, appeared to have been getting the call signs mixed up. This caused great concern among the local pilots.

The pilot of a Caribbean Airlines flight had to take off although the controller seemed unsure about the information being provided.

She had reported for duty at 8:00 hours and had remained on the job until 17:00 hours.

According to a source, the lone controller yesterday was doing the job of four persons, thus compromising the safety of the airport.

At present, a foreign plane that is currently in Guyana to conduct flight checks today, in order to certify the VOR, is grounded at the airport.

This is as a result of engineers joining their colleagues on strike.

This newspaper was told that a senior Government official told staffers that they are free to go on strike, but noted that they will not get the money that caused them to protest.

There is no one at the control tower in the evenings to address any emergency situation affecting flights that might be in Guyana’s airspace; and in the event that flights experience difficulties outside of Guyana’s airspace that may force them to make an emergency landing, they will have to seek out either Trinidad or Suriname. If they are unable to so do, they could be in dire straits.

All air traffic controllers have been off the job since Friday, having served notice that they were protesting a number of outstanding issues, among which are salary increases for 2008 and outstanding payment of retroactive overtime imbursements.

Ogle aerodrome is completely shut down. Again, yesterday, no one turned up for duty.

Pilots taking off from that airstrip are doing so at their own risk, as only when they are airborne can they log their flight routes with the control tower at the CJIA.

This, too, is now compromised.

Prior to the air traffic controllers’ strike, these routes were logged with CJIA before the planes took off.

The control tower at Ogle would file the flight plan with CJIA. Now, with the present industrial action, the five officers manning the major airport can only be given surprise notifications of a departing flight from Ogle on a mere 10 minutes’ notice.

A BBC report noted that the strike impacts on night flights.

“Guyana has banned night time flights because of the ongoing strike there by air traffic controllers,” the report noted.

“Airport authorities say the country’s main international airport needs to close at 6 pm to relieve the senior managers who are directing traffic,” it added.

The BBC report noted that the Guyana Government says it cannot grant the pay hikes because it needs to upgrade airport safety equipment.

Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines flights have been affected by the early closure; the airline has been forced to cancel flights in and out of Guyana.

A source said that this places additional strain on the operators at CJIA.

Just before the strike, the Civil Aviation Authority issued a bulletin stating that it will not maintain contact with any aircraft 75 miles from the airport.

Just two months ago, an aircraft crashed outside the 75-mile limit. Had this notice been in place then, the crash would never have been reported.

Meanwhile, the controllers have said that they are prepared to stay away for as long as it takes to get what they deserve.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean Aviation Safety and Security Oversight System (CASSOS) will be launched tomorrow as a Community institution at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat in Georgetown.

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