Mosquito plane creates a buzz

A new weapon in the centuries-old Cayman vs. the mosquito war has been flown to Grand Cayman.

A new mosquito plane arrived Friday at the Mosquito Research and Control Unit hangar.

‘The plane is better, with a newer design. It has a more powerful engine and it’s better equipped,’ Richard Clough, chief pilot, said.

The plane will be used to fight mosquitoes on Grand Cayman.

It’s the first of two mosquito fighting planes to arrive in Cayman. The second is due in April.

The two Ayres Turbo Thrush planes replace the planes MRCU had in its arsenal prior to Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

Both bright yellow planes were damaged when sea water from the storm flooded the runway at Owen Roberts Airport. One plane was rendered useless, but the other repaired.

However, the remaining plane skidded off the runway in August 2005 while landing, resulting in damage including a bent left wing and mangled landing gear.

The mosquito battle has since been fought on the ground, mainly through trucks driven through the districts applying adulticide to control adult mozzies.

The new plane must be registered with and approved by Civil Aviation Authority and an air worthiness certificate issued. Training also needs to take place.

The $1 million mosquito plane is the first of its kind, flown in from Albany, Georgia.

‘The plane is state of the art,’ Alan Wheeler of MRCU said.

‘The mosquito plane enables us to treat much larger areas,’ said Jennifer Adhearn, assistant director for operations and administration.

The new planes have white bodies with red wing and tail sections.

‘This is a larger and more powerful version of the older plane, with an improved engine and flight track software,’ Mr. Clough said in a Government Information Services press release. ‘The new planes are also identical, which has advantages like spare-part compatibility that makes maintenance easier for our engineers.

‘These new engines, manufactured by Canadian company Pratt & Whitney, can also undergo a desalination wash, an important advantage for our tropical climate. As part of our daily maintenance we will compressor-wash the engine with water to prevent degradation of parts from salt and other contaminants. Previously our engines couldn’t be washed, which led to higher maintenance costs.’

Also new onboard is the Wingman flight-track guidance system, the first software of its kind to be custom-designed for mosquito-control purposes.

Developed by former Cayman Islands MRCU pilot and software engineer Johnny Falzoi for Adapco, his Florida-based company, it incorporates real-time weather information that automatically adjusts the flow of adulticide dispersed during flights. This leads to more efficient coverage of the nearly 7,000 acres sprayed during most early-evening flights.

Adapco staff will be on island shortly to train MRCU flight staff on the software. Mr. Clough, engineer Steve Chamberlain and assistant engineer Robert Powell have also recently attended training on engine repair and maintenance in Montreal, Canada.

‘Its exciting news that MRCU will once again be ale to take to the air but my heartfelt thanks goes out to the hardworking staff who have shown much tenacity in continuing the mosquito programmes on the ground in the absence of an aerial spraying programme,’ said Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts via the GIS release.

The pre-season larvicide programme should begin in April.

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