By Sabatini Daniels
LIAT Airlines landed its inaugural official flight at the Ogle International Airport on Monday at 15:30h which departed Grantley Adams International Airport at 12:30h filled to capacity.
Present to witness touchdown of the 50-seater Dash 8 aircraft was Transport Minister Robeson Benn, who stated that one of the barriers for the Caribbean has been regional connections.
He noted that LIAT’s operation out of Ogle will help to address this issue. “So, not only are we resolving the problem with respect to Ogle and the Caribbean region, but we are also laying basis and foundation for reaching further afield into South America with these types of aircraft”.
The minister cited northern Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname and French Guiana as possible destinations. He posited too that with the upcoming football world cup and Olympic Games in Brazil, the transportation issue needs to be tackled aggressively.
He said the Ogle International Airport is a transformational initiative that the government and private sector came together to accomplish, with the aim of enhancing air transportation in and out of the country.
Benn disclosed that there has been great interest at the level of Caricom with respect to this particular project, since the regional bloc’s headquarters is not more than three miles away from the airport and business meetings are constantly held there.
The minister also thanked all the developmental partners especially the European Union for making the project possible.
“I remember the interest from former President Bharrat Jagdeo in this project, and Finance Minister Ashni Singh and I want to acknowledge their efforts, contributions and foresight with respect to having the realisation of this transformational project,” he added.
Turning to security at the airport, the transport minister has ensured that all basic steps have been taken to make sure the airport is a secure facility.
“There are over 30-something cameras around the facility with respect to being able to access both air side and land side… I also noticed the dog which sniffs substances,” Benn noted.
He stated that persons who want to engage in illegal activities will always be encountered, but the ministry; the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority; airport employees; and relevant authorities such as the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) will work together to ensure persons do not get away with breaking the law.
Ogle Airport security consultant Harold Hopkinson said the airport has learnt from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport’s security mishaps: “We will not make those basic mistakes, and we have a competent team of persons that will stem the tide of illegal narcotics and drugs; we have CANU and the police… we have a constant report and we share information; therefore, we have a good thing going.”
He reiterated that the cameras are effective, adding that they work 24 hours and have backup systems in place, in case something goes wrong. “If so, we can go and find what that mistake is, and go and deal with it condignly,” he assured.
This publication also took the opportunity to speak to several passengers who gave their opinion on LIAT’s new operation out of the Ogle Airport.
Pansy Raphael said, “The flight was very smooth, it came on time which I am happy for and it came close to where I am living, I live in Campbellville, so I just have a five minutes drive to get home.”
Andrew Mitchell, who is a visitor from Antigua, said, “It was an excellent flight; the pilot did a great job and it was very nice to come in this side of the country.”