[Final Flights] George Alexander Grandsoult d.1986

Remembering those who have logged one more takeoff than landings.
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[Final Flights] George Alexander Grandsoult d.1986

Unread post by bimjim » Mon Dec 02, 2019

https://guyanachronicle.com/2017/12/24/ ... o-kamarang

[Final Flights] Last flight to Kamarang
Alva Solomon -
December 24, 2017

The day was November 26, 1986. Air traffic controllers at Timehri were alarmed when the Cessna 206 single-engine aircraft failed to land at Kamarang in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni area.

Today, more than three decades later, the memories still haunt the relatives of George Alexander Grandsoult, an experienced navigator who was never heard from again after his midday transmission that fateful day in 1986.

Co-pilot, Emile Khan, who was married and the father of a six-month-old baby at the time, was on board the Cessna 206 Super Skywagon aircraft which bore registration 8R-GAG.

It is believed that bad weather may have played a role in the disappearance of the aircraft and according to reports at the time, Grandsoult’s last position report was some 18 minutes prior to his destination. He was last heard from at around 11:57hrs that Wednesday.

But did George’s aircraft crash, or was the crew held captive somewhere?

In April 1987, four months after their disappearance, George’s wife, his son Maurice, and other siblings had alerted the Venezuelan Embassy by letter of information which the family received. The family was told that George had landed his aircraft in Venezuela, and was later held captive by soldiers there.

The family said that in March 1987, the captain of Kamarang Village, Albert Reed, reported that he had received information from persons in Venezuela that George was seen with an “Indian man”, believed to be Emile Khan, at a military airport base near the Rio Apongua (Apongua River), some 74 kilometres north of the village of Santa Elena in Venezuela.

The village captain’s sister-in-law, Joyce Hunt, who was interviewed by broadcaster Naim Chan for the then Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) in April of 1987, recounted that in December 1986, a month after George and Khan disappeared, she travelled into Venezuela from the border village of Kaikan to spend Christmas. She said she was told that an aircraft had circled four times over the Rio Apongua area and later landed during bad weather.

Locals said a tall, white-haired man with a “limp” and an “Indian man” came out of the aircraft. The descriptions fitted George and his co-pilot. The relatives reported that the Venezuelan solders assumed that the airmen had run out of gas. Later, the residents said the two were placed in “a soldier house”, which they suspected was a prison. It is unclear if the concerns of the family were ever addressed.

MEMORIES OF GEORGE

George is described by today’s generation of pilots as the true pioneer of aviation in Guyana. Some describe him as the man who taught many not only to fly, but the general know-how of aircraft. His daughter has been saving newspaper clippings of the stories on her father’s disappearance ever since he went missing.

Dinah Alexandra Hooker, nee Grandsoult, remembers the day as if it was yesterday. It was mere days before her graduation from the St Joseph High School that her father George was never seen nor heard from again.

She told the Guyana Chronicle from the UK where she resides that those memories of her father are etched in her mind, and almost daily she would think of his kind and cheerful character.

“He loved his head being rubbed with Limacol; nobody got away from doing it. He loved animals, too, hence we had so many dogs,” she said. “Dad went missing on November 26, 1986. It was my mom’s birthday on the 17th of November. I was due to graduate on the 11th of December, 1986,” Dinah said, adding that while she attended her class’s graduation ceremony at St Joseph, she chose not to participate in a dance item “as a mark of respect.” She said she was 16 at the time.

EXPERIENCED AIRMAN

Grandsoult, a son of Guyana’s soil whose parents had UK roots, is said to have been the first person to own a Britten-Norman Islander (BN2) twin-engine aircraft in Guyana. The model is widely respected for its durability. He acquired that model aircraft after years of flying his first aircraft, a Cessna 207, across the country.

That Cessna 207 crashed at Ekereku Bottom in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) during his early years of flying here. While information on that crash is sketchy, the remains of the aircraft are said to be still visible at Ekereku to this day. George then acquired the Britten-Norman Islander, and reportedly transferred his famous registration “8R-GDJ”, known to many as the “Delta Juliet” in aviation terms, from the crashed Cessna to his Islander aircraft.

At the time of his disappearance, the 62-year-old pilot had some 20 years’ experience flying with an accumulated log of 14,000 flying hours. He was described as a capable and veteran jungle pilot by fellow flyers and others in the aviation world. He was well known for navigating in harsh weather conditions, and flying below the clouds was one of his best known traits.

George started his aviation career as an engineer in the Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II. The late pilot flew in many other countries prior to setting up his own company here, which traded under the name, “Guyana Aviation Group.”

“He was a true ‘bush pilot’ and a pioneer, training many pilots and also finding those who may have crashed,” his daughter recalled.
George refuelling the Britten-Norman Islander aircraft at Manari in the Rupununi

Hooker said that her father did indeed walk with a limp, and may have sustained the injury from a plane crash in Nairobi, Kenya, back in 1960. According to the family, it was in Kenya that the airman honed his skills as a well-known “bush pilot.” His daughter recounted that after the crash in Kenya, a metal pin was placed in his hip and according to her, he was very uncomfortable walking with the metal in his body.

INCIDENT IN BRAZIL

The Daily Chronicle of Wednesday, June 12, 1974, had reported that Grandsoult and several others were in custody of the Brazilian authorities, while his Britten-Norman Islander was grounded after he allegedly landed there without permission.

The pilot and passengers had gone to Lethem on an outing. Among those on board the aircraft were well-known lawyer, Donald Robinson; an engineer; a rancher, Frank Eagle, a naturalised Guyanese; and Grandsoult.

The incident was said to have occurred due to a mix-up in information on the Brazilian side, and the crew and passengers were allowed to leave, while the aircraft was impounded, but later released.

Dinah recalled another incident, this time at Lethem, during which her father experienced “a hard landing.”

“Dad circled the runway; no way to tell if either was closed. The left strut hit a pile of sand and dented the left wing,” she recalled. She said her father then flew to a ranch which he operated at Crystal Springs. He left for Ogle without her to fix the aircraft. Sometime later, an army “Skyvan” was in the area, and she was able to travel back to Georgetown.

It was a few months after that incident that George “went down” at Kamarang, she noted.

DAY OF DISAPPEARANCE

The Guyana Graphic reported at the time that on the day of George’s disappearance, the Cessna aircraft departed the Ogle Aerodrome at 10:53hrs that Wednesday morning for Kamarang with fuel , on a routine flight. Air traffic controllers said they were in contact with the aircraft up to 11:57hrs.

At the time, the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) officials recalled that George was just about eighteen minutes before he should have landed at Kamarang when he last transmitted from the aircraft. CAD officials described weather conditions as extremely rough on the day of the incident.

After George failed to file a landing report, a search-and-rescue operation involving the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) aircraft from Ogle and the Guyana Airways Corporation (GAC) failed to turn up any clues about the aircraft and its occupants. Subsequent fly-overs of the dense jungle also proved futile.

Dinah noted that her brother, Maurice, an engineer with Bell Textron in Texas in the United States, even attempted to scour the area with a heat-seeking device. However, that exercise also proved futile. The family remains hopeful that one day, someone somewhere may be able tell the family about the disappearance of George, his passenger, Khan and the missing Cessna.


GeorgeGrandsoult.jpg
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