Army, Police, Civil Aviation incapable of detecting illegal aircraft – Inquiry report


None of the country’s security services or the aviation authority can detect the entry of illegal aircraft into the country’s airspace, a Commission of Inquiry has found.

President David Granger had set up a Commission of Inquiry (CoI), headed by Brigadier Edward Collins, to investigate the circumstances under which a foreign aircraft entered Guyana’s airspace. The aircraft was discovered near the village of Yupukari, Upper Essequibo-Upper Takutu on September 13, 2016.

In the report, which was tabled in the National Assembly on Thursday (November 02, 2017), it was noted that the Guyana Defence Force nor the Police has the technology to monitor or detect entry of illegal aircraft, only the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCCA).

However, the Commission determined that the foreign aircraft entered Guyana’s airspace undetected despite the GCCA being equipped with the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) System.

This is the most advanced technology available to the agencies of the State. It was a technology, which the Commission accepted was capable of monitoring Guyana’s airspace but evidently not suited to monitoring, moreover detecting any aircraft bent on intrusion.

The ADS-B System was installed on September 1, 2014 but only for testing. It was subsequently put into operation on November 12th, 2015 at a total cost of US$608, 659.

While the Acting Director of Air Navigation Services, Mr Rickford Samaroo, noted that the System met all the expected outcomes associated with Aeronautical Surveillance for the purpose of Air Traffic Management, its effectiveness is dependent on active replies from the aircraft being monitored, meaning cooperative surveillance. Thus, the Commission concluded that it was not applicable to the foreign aircraft, which entered the territory of Guyana or any aircraft involved in illegal activities.

The report quoted the testimony of Mr Samaroo, in which he said that for a “normal” air traffic operation, the GCCA would have prior notice of the flight expected via a flight plan and once that airplane enters the airspace, there is a requirement for them to establish communication until the aircraft reaches its destination or exits the airspace.

“Outside of that, unless someone reports to us that there is an unidentified aircraft, we have no way of telling that there is such an operation taking place,” Mr Samaroo is quoted as saying.

Mr Samaroo noted that the required technology would be the Primary Surveillance Radar, an independent surveillance system.

“It does not require any equipment to be in the aircraft. It is designed purely to detect movement in the airspace, be it target or the clouds. Whatever it is, once it is moving, its range and distance would be computed and reported,” Mr Samaroo testified.

But he concluded that the Primary Surveillance Radar is “very costly to acquire” and in his opinion its purpose could not be justified just for the purpose of aviation.”

The Commission concluded that had the Army and Police Commanders been more proactive in their patrol planning, the aircraft would have been discovered much earlier. For one thing, it was found that the patrol programmes did not reflect an intent to pursue the numerous reports of unusual activities nor did it aim at winning the hearts and minds of the residents in order to establish sources of information gathering.

Brigadier Collins recommended that the Guyana Defence Force develops an aerial surveillance for Region 9 and incorporate the residents in one form or the other in order to deter foreign aircraft from illegally entering Guyana’s airspace.

He also recommended that the airstrip at Yupukari be rendered incapable of further use by whatever means the security services deem fit.

Further, he recommended a Standing Operating Procedure for dealing with illegal airstrips to prevent recurrence of similar activities.

Brigadier Collins has also recommended there be a review of the laws governing civil aviation.

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