Jolted by a recent top management shake-up and problems with its only jet aircraft, the State-owned Guyana Airways has said that it is moving to have its TU-154M aircraft back in service at the end of the week or early in the next.
A top management spokesman told ‘Stabroek News’ that arrangements are being made to lease an engine from Cuba to be installed in the Soviet-built aircraft, while negotiations are concluded for the Corporation to obtain another engine from the manufacturers.
The aircraft, just over one year old, has recently been the centre of controversy following two separate incidents of engine problems on flights out of the United States.
The first occurred on October 26 last when the crew reportedly noticed that the Number Two engine was malfunctioning. A quick decision was taken to return the aircraft and passengers to the John F. Kennedy Airport where repairs were effected.
Just two months after that incident, another engine failure hit the three-engine airliner after it had left Miami International Airport on Boxing Day.
Reports confirmed both by the corporation and Civil Aviation Department (CAD) officials indicated that it was decided to continue the flight on two engines until the craft reached Piarco Airport in Trinidad and Tobago where the stricken plane touched down and passengers were allowed to disembark.
This is the incident that caused regular passengers and local Civil Aviation officials to really focus their attention on the performance of the national airliner.
One passenger told ‘Stabroek News’ that he was extremely concerned about the latest incident, bearing in mind that it is not a case where it was the same “Number Two engine giving trouble, but this time it was another one.”
Clearly, he feels, something needs to be done about the aircraft which flies to North America, the Caribbean, Suriname and Brazil. “Who knows… the next time it could be Numbers Two and Three or Numbers One and Two engines.”
Director of Civil Aviation Anthony Mekdeci has acknowledged that his department is investigating the incidents.
Asked whether management is concerned about the aircraft’s performance, a top spokesman said only that “we are looking at it.” He would not comment on the cost of the replacement “Tarom’’ aircraft which has been operating the schedules while the TU154M remains grounded at Timehri.
The October incident embarrassed GAC officials who were forced to switch to the replacement TU154B almost at the last moment when the Corporation inaugurated its weekly jet service to Brazil. Special permission had to be sought to land the plane and its all-Romanian crew at Boa Vista International.
The passengers who were stranded in Trinidad as a result of the last incident, were brought home by HS 748 flights the next day.
Informed sources say that engine failure in modern jet aircraft is unusual.