From Gold Star to Lone Star: How Liberia Civil Aviation Authority Ignored Red Flag from Ghana Regarding New Air Service
Monrovia – A FrontPageAfrica investigation supported by a damning communication from the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, warning its Liberia counterpart about safety concerns regarding a new airline launched in Liberia by President George Manneh Weah last Friday, suggest that the recently-appointed head of the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority, Mr. Moses Kollie ignored serious red flags about the safety of the air carrier, Goldstar Air, which has now been transformed to Lone Star Air.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
Last week, the Weah-led government launched what is being dubbed as the first-ever post-war airline for Liberia called “Lone Star Air (Wings of Liberia)”.
At the ceremony however, the plane was nowhere in sight, only models of a cake design of the plane. There were also no inaugural or test flights arranged or an opportunity for a tour of the plane for invited guests.
Industry observers say it is rare to host such a program without a test flight or a guided tour.
LCAA Has Not Ignored, DG Kollie Says
When contacted at the weekend regarding the red flag raised by the Ghana Civil Aviation, LCAA Director General Kollie dismissed suggestions that the warnings from Ghana were ignored, insinuating instead that the Goldstar operation has no commenced flights and that all the necessary steps will be taken before allowing the service to take off.
Said DG Kollie: “For the record and clarity, the LCAA has not ignored any information provided by the GCAA through the office of DG Kraikue as it relates to Goldstar Air. What happened yesterday was a launch or an unveiling of GOL intend to reawaken the National Airline of Liberia by His Excellency The President (Dr. GMW); of which has not began the activities of flying. So be it Goldstar Air or any other airline company that Lonestar Air will partner with in order to begin the activities of flying, said airline foreign company will have to meet up with all requirements in line with LCAA; including ICAO Standards before being permitted to operate in the sector in Liberia.”
“Records available to my office in response to the subject matter indicates that, Goldstar Air after having been issued with the Air Carrier License ACL has not fulfilled certain conditions as set out under the License. I wish therefore to state that Goldstar Air has no Ghana AOC to operate as an airline.”– Mr. Charles Kraikue, Director-General, Ghana Aviation Authority, in a Letter to Mr. Moses Kollie, Director General, Liberia Civil Aviation Authority, dated Oct. 27, 2020, obtained by FrontPageAfrica
FrontPageAfrica has been unable to confirm multiple reports that the deal is the brainchild of President Weah’s economic advisor, former Finance Minister Emmanuel Shaw.
Acknowledging that the Covid-19 Pandemic has put partial restrictions on borders worldwide, coming at a great loss to players in the aviation industry, the government noted that the bold initiative by President Weah, aims to take the opportunity to tap into some good fortune by ensuring it becomes a significant player in the aviation space, especially in the sub-region.
“It is envisaged that the launch of the new airline by the government will lead to the realization of making Liberia a destination of choice and an aviation hub in the region. The colorful ceremony will be held at the Roberts International Airport in Margibi County, and with much excitement and enthusiasm,” the government said.
The Red Flag from Ghana
Despite the government’s effort, FrontPageAfrica has learned that the airline, Goldstar Air did not pass the smell test in Ghana.
The communication signed by Mr. Charles Kraikue, Director-General, Ghana Aviation Authority dated Oct. 27, 2020 reads below:
Our ref : AIR/675/026/006
27th October, 2020
Your ref: CAA20/DG/010-014
Dig Add : GL-135-7178
The Director General
Liberia Civil Aviation Authority
P.O Box 68
Republic of Liberia
Attention: Chief Moses Y. Kollie
RE: GOLDSTAR AIR (ACL)
I hope this letter finds you well and to thank you for the compliments.
Reference is made to your letter AA20/DG/010-014 dated 23rd October 2020 with attachments.
Records available to my office in response to the subject matter indicates that, Goldstar Air after having been issued with the Air Carrier License ACL has not fulfilled certain conditions as set out under the License. I wish therefore to state that Goldstar Air has no Ghana AOC to operate as an airline.
Goldstar commenced the AOC certification process but at the 3rd phase, the process was suspended due to inability to fulfill certain requirements of the process.
The Authority is therefore awaiting Goldstar Air to re-apply for commencement of the process before AOC is issued in the category as specified under the ACL.
Please accept the assurances of my deepest consideration.
ING. CHARLES KRAIKUE
CC: AG. DEPUTY DIRECTOR-GENERAL (TECHNICAL) DIRECTOR, SAFETY REGULATION
‘Non-Existent Airline’The communication, FrontPageAfrica has learned was an apparent response to the LCAA’s attempt to conduct background check on Goldstar Air. However, it appears, the LCAA, when informed by its Ghanaian counterpart declined to take the advice and went ahead with the launching last Friday.In 2017, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) issued an advisory notice warning the general public not to conduct any business with either of local start-up Goldstar Airlines (Accra) or the US-based virtual carrier, Global Ghana Airlines (Chicago O’Hare).In the notice, the regulator said it had noted advertisements flighted by either firm for commercial flights connecting Ghana with other parts of the world despite neither possessing an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC).Said the GCAA: “The … advertisements are misleading and the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority takes a very serious view of this,” GCAA Director General, Simon Allotey, said. “In light of the above, the general public is hereby advised not to conduct any business with these companies, as they do not have the necessary approvals from the GCAA to commence such air operations.”
Mr. Eric Bannerman, CEO of Goldstar Airlines CEO, at the time claimed that Allotey’s statement was “misleading” and contended that although his start-up was still in the process of securing its AOC, the fact that it has an Air Services Licence (ASL) is proof enough that it is “duly certified”.
Bannerman said: “It is a plot to tarnish our image with a non-existent airline.”
“For the record and clarity, the LCAA has not ignored any information provided by the GCAA through the office of DG Kraikue as it relates to Goldstar Air. What happened yesterday was a launch or an unveiling of GOL intend to reawaken the National Airline of Liberia by His Excellency The President (Dr. GMW); of which has not began the activities of flying.”– Mr. Moses Y. Kollie, Director General, Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA), Responding to FrontPageAfrica Inquiry
The Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is the regulatory agency of the Republic of Ghana for air transportation in the country. It also provides air navigation services within the Accra Flight Information Region (FIR), which comprises the airspace over the Republic of Ghana and a large area over the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf of Guinea.
The GCAA was established in 1930 as a unit with Public Works Department (PWD); in 1953 GCAA was granted Departmental Status. It became an Authority under PNDC Law 151 from 16th May, 1986. In the year 2004 the GCAA Act was enacted to replace PNDC Law 151.
The Civil Aviation Act, Act 678 of November 2004 provides for the establishment of a Civil Aviation
Authority, which will focus on the core functions of Airspace management and Safety Regulations whilst allowing for a different organization to handle Airport development and operations.
Pursuant to the above, the GCAA was restructured into two bodies, that is, the new GHANA Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) on 1st January 2007.
Its Liberia Counterpart, the LCAA, saw a departmental shift from the Ministry of Commerce Industry & Transportation and later the decoupled Ministry of Transport until 2005 after the legislative determination, which created the independent Liberia Civil Aviation Authority.
‘Flying Coffins’ Redux?
The mandate of the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority is to provide for the regulation and promotion of civil aviation in Liberia, to foster its safe and orderly development, and for other purposes incidental thereof.
The concerns over Goldstar Air bears similarities to the controversial Weasuah Air Transport which was shut down by the LCAA in 2006 over safety and airworthiness grounds. The shutdown was part of the LCAA’s annual successive annual progress report that year.
Weasua was founded in 1993 during the Liberian civil war and operated 3 Yak-40s until an attack on Spriggs Payne Airport in April 1996. One of the aircraft had its tail blown off and the other was damaged in a fire. The last aircraft operated charters between Freetown and Monrovia. The airline also operated An-24s, De Havilland DHC-5 Buffalos and smaller american and soviet types. Some reports about the airline claimed that it operated illegally as a General Sales Agent for Air France, KLM and Kenya Airways in complete contravention of the ‘Liberianization Policy’ as well as Part 14 of the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority Regulations. Today, one of Wesua’s Yak-40s can be found abandoned at Robertsfield.
Prior to the arrival of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s ascendance to the Liberian Presidency, a safety audit conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) booked Liberia of more than 117 deficiencies including gun-running, illegal registration of unsafe aircraft, poor safety conditions and overall noncompliance with ICAO minimum standards.
This prompted the LCAA to shutdown Weasua Airways in 2006 for operating what was then referred to as flying coffins. Weasua management ran to the Supreme Court but lost the case after on grounds that all aircraft on its registry were not airworthy.
Industry observers fear that while the idea of having a Liberia Airways is appealing, any attempt to ignore ICOA Standards and Recommended Practices will severely impact Liberia tourism and transportation sectors.
In 2007, coming out of the aviation safety and security considerations, the Regional Banjul Accord Group (BAG) saw the need to establish two Safety Oversight organizations; the Banjul Accord Group Safety Oversight Organization (BAGASOO) and the Banjul Accord Group Accident Investigation Agency (BAGAIA) to jointly harmonize Aviation Safety, Security and Airworthiness issues within Member States (Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cape Verde).
It can be recalled the ahead of Delta Airlines’ commencement of direct flight to Liberia, the Banjul Accord Group seconded one of its Airworthiness experts to partner with Liberia to conduct Aviation Inspection Audit of Delta’s Maintenance and Operational Base in Atlantic, Georgia in 2009.
The Authority, under former President Sirleaf had made some strides by taking appropriate corrective actions on deficiencies outlined in ICAO Safety Audit. Those steps, some say may suffer setbacks in the wake of the controversy surrounding Goldstar’s attempt to fly Liberia’s skies.