The Ogle International Airport was this afternoon (May 9) renamed the Eugene F. Correia International Airport by President David Granger.
Below is the speech delivered by Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson at the event:
This year our beautiful country turns 50 and we will be celebrating under the theme, “Reflect, Celebrate, Inspire”.
It is therefore apt that the renaming of Guyana’s second international airport comes at this time. In 2016, the name Eugene Correia may not be well-known but, in his time, Mr. Correia was a pilot; he was a former Minister of Government, serving in the post of Minister of Communications, with responsibility for aviation; he was a contributor to Guyana’s development. But, most importantly, Eugene Correia was a son of the soil whose record we should be proud of.
We have therefore decided to reflect upon his contributions, celebrate them, and hopefully inspire the next generation’s Eugene Correia to do great things and perhaps even get his or her name put on something.
Indeed, the naming, or in this case, renaming of a country’s international airport is always a crowning moment.
Unfortunately, this moment did come with its fair share of dissent. Over the past several months, and particularly within the past few weeks, there has been tension surrounding the name change of the Ogle International Airport to the Eugene F. Correia International Airport.
The arguments on both sides are valid and each person on either side holds strong convictions. Many of the questions seemed to focus on Mr. Correia’s ancestry and his linkage to the present management structure of the airport.
However, there is a bigger picture to look at; there is more to this matter than business or politics.
Since its creation, this airport has grown by leaps and bounds. No one could have predicted the ways in which it has flourished, from a local hub that served hinterland communities to a regional one that further opened up Guyana to the rest of the Caribbean.
Each year, the Ogle airport shuttles thousands of persons to their destinations. For many, the services provided from this airport are crucial and incomparable.
In communities such as Paramakatoi in region 8, for example, the flights are its primary link to the outside world. In countless other Indigenous communities, these services provide necessary items such as food and medicine. In regard to regional travel, the airport provides a much more convenient choice than what was previously offered.
So, while the name of this airport is changing from the Ogle International Airport to the Eugene F. Correia International Airport, its functions will remain the same; this airport will still provide a means for those in hinterland communities to bolster economic activity; this airport will still provide a link for access to key services; this airport will still impact lives in big ways.
Overall, the operational section has been functioning smoothly but that does not mean that there is no room for improvement.
As I have noted, the airport plays a key role in Guyana’s aviation sector and this role is only expected to expand as time goes by.
What might have worked a decade ago may not be what is best for today and therefore a review is being done of the operations of the Ogle Airport Inc. In particular, the Government of Guyana is focusing on its current lease of the facility to OAI. Presently, there is an independent legal firm looking at the lease; I give my firm assurance that this separate exercise will be done transparently and the renaming of the airport will not affect the outcome or direction of Government in this matter.
The reason for this review is obvious; this Government has long recognised the importance of supporting domestic operations, which account for about 85 percent of aviation traffic in Guyana.
Operators who oppose today’s renaming have complained that this act will give an unfair advantage to a specific operator. Their concerns cannot be dismissed as something without any merit, therefore this will also be addressed during our review process.
Furthermore, while I acknowledge that OAI is a private company, it is however managing a government asset. As such, its management should be dealt with in an equitable manner and this is a commitment that I give on behalf of the Government of Guyana. Whether it is through the redesign of the company’s website or the construction of a shorter taxiway for the majority of the operators, we will work with all stakeholders to ensure that a satisfactory consensus is reached.
Currently, Guyana has signed on to the effective implementation of the standards and recommended practices established to ensure the safe and orderly development of civil aviation.
Government is committed to drastically reducing the incidences of air accidents. When it comes to compliance with ICAO, the regional average is above 70 percent while Guyana currently stands at 44 percent compliance. Government’s goal is to move Guyana to 60 percent compliance shortly.
To bolster domestic operations, works have already begun to improve oversight capabilities and additional personnel have expanded several units, including the Aviation Security Unit; the Air Transport Management Department; and the Aviation Safety Department.
Government is also focusing on the upgrade of the country’s air navigation service through the implementation of the aeronautical surveillance service using Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast.
Additionally, a draft Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation Act has been circulated to stakeholders for comment.
The bolstering of domestic operations is critically important in connecting the coast to the hinterland and it is paramount that the Government plays its role in fostering the sector’s efficiency.
Government is also committed to the upgrade of our hinterland airstrips and infrastructure and is currently pursuing an airstrips and aerodromes development programme. This programme has already seen MPI officials and Minister within the Ministry, the Honourable Annette Ferguson, visiting hinterland airstrips in a bid to improve their capabilities.
A review of Guyana’s aviation laws is also necessary and Government is already looking into these developments.
This Government is one that is committed to the improvement of civil aviation and, more specifically, we are committed to supporting this airport, whatever its name might be.
Furthermore, Government promises that with greater involvement it can hopefully aid in the standardisation of operational procedures to ensure equal opportunities are available to all involved, while negating anti-competitiveness in the industry.
The concerns raised have not fallen on deaf ears; we assure that today’s renaming will not “drive the final nail in the coffin” of those who feel that they have become disadvantaged.
To the operators, I urge you to put aside your differences for the greater good. Let us all work towards bettering this facility and, by extension, the entire country’s aviation sector. We have a long way to go and, as we Guyanese say, “One, one dutty build dam”.