With the aim of bridging the gap between the hinterland and the coastland, Air Services Limited on Friday officially launched scheduled flights to Upper Mazaruni in Region Seven which will benefit eight indigenous communities directly.
The flights were launched Friday at the Eugene Correia International Airport at Ogle, East Coast Demerara but will officially kick off Tuesday November 12.
The flights will depart Ogle for the communities every Tuesday and Thursday.
Manager for Air Services Limited, Mrs Annette Arjoon-Martins, said that they started out 50 years ago with two small Cessna aircraft and over the years grew their fleet to 24 aircraft and four helicopters and a staff of over 230 persons.
Air Services Limited is the only commercially approved helicopter operator in Guyana and is looking to transition to a twin engine helicopter soon.
“The time has come for us to expand our footprint even further and in Region 7 we see as a place with perfect opportunities for us to grow as well, and not only grow in the traditional sectors but the new sectors such as tourism,” Arjoon-Martins said.
Air Services limited is also looking to expand their services with a hangar in Kamarang.
“We are going to based there and serving not only Kamarang but using there as a platform to serve all the villages in Region 7; it is really exciting for us to be launching our new service,” Martins-Arjoon said.
Toshao for Paruima Village in Region 7, Lee Williams, said the village has a population of over 780 and is home to the only Arecunas in Guyana.
Williams said before the scheduled flights, residents did chartered flights once or twice a month, which is very expensive.
He noted that the only mode of transportation to the village is by flights from another community Kamarang, and then by way of boat which takes several hours.
“We’ve been trying over the years of how we can go about bringing some economics in our community after we have seen the [adverse effects] of deforestation in mining and logging; we thought about other alternatives as how we can go about earning in our village,” the Toshao said.
Paruima has decided to venture into tourism. The Toshao noted that they are still in the planning process.
Some areas he spoke about include tours to attractive waterfalls in the community, sand beaches and river rafting.
“The flights are every Tuesday and Thursday and that can boost our tourism, I would encourage you to visit us. Paruima is seasonal but Easter is the best time where the water is very low,” the Toshao said.
Minister of State Dawn Hastings-Williams said the biggest challenge for hinterland communities is transportation and commended Air Services limited for working with the government to serve the people.
“I am happy for the people in Imbaimadai, Phillipai, in Chi Chi East, Chi Chi West, in Paruima, Kaikan and Ekereku Bottom because those are the places you [Air Services] intend to go,” the Minister said.
The Minister said with Air Services venturing into the agricultural sector also the residents in these areas will benefit greatly.
“We have a lot of agricultural potential in Upper Mazaruni, but because of challenges that the residents find in marketing their products, they just tend to relax but I am sure that excitement is just bubbling and the young people are now thinking about ways and means on how they can utilize these services.”
Meanwhile, Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Jaipaul Sharma said the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority is currently conducting a risk assessment at the Eugene F. Correia Airport which will look at the runway and the control tower for further expansion.