President David Granger: Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Mr. Michael Correia and Members of the Correia Group of Companies; Members of the Ogle International Airport directorship, members of the private sector; members of the aviation community, special invitees, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen:
Trans Guyana Airways’ acquisition of this Beechcraft is a good move. It is an impressive addition to the company’s fleet and to the national inventory of over 70 aircraft operated by a dozen private companies and employing over 3000 persons permanently.
The acquisition of this aircraft represents an expression of confidence in the future of domestic commercial aviation. This aircraft will undoubtedly improve the range, reliability, quality and competitiveness of aviation services, not only to the hinterland, but also to what I call the ‘near abroad’. The hinterland particularly is an essential element in this country’s development; it is the frontier of our economic progress and our territorial occupation.
The hinterland furnishes much of our country’s mineral and ecological wealth – our gold, our diamonds, our timber. The hinterland contains some of richest and rarest flora and fauna in the world. Our luxuriant landscape of beautiful waterfalls, rivers, creeks, mountains, savannahs, and rainforests offer tremendous potential for ecotourism and other eco-services.
Your Government wishes to unlock the hinterland’s vast wealth. We propose to do so in a sustainable way so that future generations can also benefit from our national patrimony. The hinterland however, while rich in resources is characterised by poor levels of infrastructure and poor levels of human development; huge economic and social disparities separate the hinterland from the coastland. We will pay increased attention over the next five years to reducing these inequalities by improving communication and transportation, thereby unlocking the hinterland’s vast wealth.
Domestic aviation over the past century has proven to be one way, one of the keys to unlocking this potential bringing our people together, developing our communities and exploiting our natural resources. The reliability and regularity of domestic aviation services is the lifeline of development of many far-flung hinterland communities, many areas are accessible only by air; remote communities and their residents remain would isolated from the rest of the country without air transport. We intend to end that isolation; we intend to intensify their integration with the rest of the country by increasing access to air transport.
Domestic aviation supports several essential economic activities. Every month, as you have heard, an average of 13,500 passengers pass through this very airport; everyday an average of 50,000 kilos of cargo pass through this very airport.
Tourists look forward to an affordable, reliable and safe air transport system to visit our beautiful destinations in the hinterland; missions of mercy evacuate the seriously ill and the injured. Your government acknowledges and values the contribution of the aviation sector to our development. We are keen to ensure that this sector continues to expand and to provide improved services to all Guyanese.
The absence of domestic flights would place an additional burden on the state to provide these missions and services that are now provided by private operators. We are therefore eager to encourage further private investment in our aviation sector and we will compliment this private investment with public investment, in order to create a more robust aviation sector. We will support the local aviation sector by working with you, the private operators and other stakeholders to achieve the four major objectives, which you set out in your own draft Aviation Policy promulgated by the Aircraft Owners Association of Guyana last year.
The first priority was to ensure independent aircraft accident investigation – we will do so. There have been more than 25 serious aviation accidents over the past decade. We support your call that these accidents must be investigated promptly and competently so that we can learn lessons from them; improve our regulatory environment and prevent recurrences.
Safety and security are overriding concerns within the local airline industry; we want safe and secure skies in Guyana. We want to ensure that Guyana has an outstanding safety and security record and your government will work with all the stakeholders in this industry to develop plans for greater safety and security over our skies. We want an accident-free aviation sector. We want everyone who boards an aircraft in Guyana to feel secure – this requires shared responsibilities among all of the players in the industry.
Secondly, you asked us to enhance the capability of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority. Well, as [Minister of Tourism] Cathy [Hughes] said, “it can only go up”. We need to agree among ourselves that we must boost the institutional and technological capability of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority in order to ensure greater aeronautical surveillance and to enforce rigorous safety and security standards.
The third thing you called for last year was the expansion of the Hinterland Aerodrome Rehabilitation Programme. The hinterland now is witnessing increased economic activity; activity that is generating greater demand for air transport. Our domestic carrier serves a number of routes to the hinterland, many other areas require such services. We want to expand the reach of our domestic aviation sector so that more areas of our country can benefit and have access to air transport.
Your government intends to devote considerable resources to boost the infrastructure of the hinterland. We intend to rehabilitate and maintain aerodromes and this will be provided for in our budget next year. Safe aerodromes will maintain access to routes, destinations and markets, but it will also have a multiplier effect on economic activity while at the same time providing increased services to remote communities.
And the fourth point that the Association called for I am happy to endorse, that is, the establishment of a permanent national search and rescue agency. The hinterland has witnessed too many aviation mishaps and accidents. We want to ensure that once an accident occurs relief will be on the way as quickly as possible, not days afterwards.
Your government will help Ogle International Airport to grow into an important sub-regional hub, taking and bringing passengers, not only to the 120 airstrips in our own country, but also what I call the A-Z from Antigua to Zandary, Boa Vista, Bridgetown, Port of Spain and elsewhere.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, we can see clearly now, we can look forward to a bright future without turbulence in this aviation sector. We invite private aircraft operators to be part of this future and to exploit the opportunities that would be provided over the next five years and beyond.
The aircraft that is being commissioned here at Ogle, this evening, is part of that bright tomorrow. As we look to the future however, let us not forget how we got here, and let us not forget the path that we took over the last hundred years. We recall, this evening, the intrepid efforts and accomplishments of our early aviators. I pay tribute, particularly, to one who is not only a pioneer pilot, but he was also a prospector and later an elected member of the legislative assembly and the first Minister of Communication Shipping and Civil Aviation in our first post-independence government. I pay tribute to Eugene Francis Correia and, this evening, I have the honour to urge the directors of Ogle International Airport Incorporated to rename this important dynamic forward looking facility the Eugene F. Correia International Airport (come on, come on, come on) in so doing we not only recall the past, but we recognise his vision for aviation and his vision for hinterland development. [Applause.]
I wish all success to Trans Guyana Airways and pray that this aircraft will contribute to the development of this great country.
May God bless you all!
I thank you.

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