Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan said steps are being taken to mitigate noise generated by the Cayman Helicopters aircraft after numerous complaints about it from Cayman residents.
The newly purchased Eurocopter model chopper, bought for the exclusive use of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, has still not arrived on island. But the use of the aircraft owned by Cayman Helicopters for police operations has sparked plenty of concern among island dwellers this year.
One man from South Sound wrote the Caymanian Compass last month to report the helicopter had come within 100 feet of a cemetery in the middle of the night. Police said the helicopter was being used as part of a surveillance operation.
Another resident of Bodden Town told public safety officials at a community meeting that he was concerned about helicopter noise in his neighbourhood after government completed work on an emergency centre complex, which includes a helicopter landing pad.
‘You have a helicopter, ambulances…this is right in the middle of a large residential area,’ he said. (Compass, 1 October)
The Cayman Helicopters vehicle also caused a stir in Bodden Town in January when it was used near the public beach to catch two men who police said were illegally using a hook stick to fish for lobster.
Mr. Kernohan said once the new police helicopter arrives on island, residents will notice a difference in the noise levels. But he said there’s no such thing as a whisper mode helicopter, which is sometimes featured on television shows.
‘One of the reasons why (the Eurocopter model) was selected was because of the noise or the sound profile on it is actually lower,’ Mr. Kernohan said.
‘But the No. 1 enemy of the law enforcement helicopters is noise, because that is…the number one complaint (about them).’
The police service does use certain methods with the craft owned by Cayman Helicopters to keep the amount of noise under control. For instance, a certain minimum height will be set at various times of day, which the helicopter pilot cannot exceed except in special circumstances.
‘It may have to get down lower than that, but I can certainly give you an undertaking that if the helicopter is flying lower than the (level) we’ve indicated, it will be for a specific reason,’ Commissioner Kernohan said.
Also, if the aircraft is flying to a certain point on the island it will use certain flight paths to avoid residential areas, he said.
‘We try and use routes throughout Grand Cayman, particularly offshore, for transiting to and from certain points on the island. That reduces the number of noise complaints that we have.’
Mr. Kernohan urged residents who have complaints about the helicopter’s use in specific instances to report them to police.
The new Eurocopter EC 135-T1 model aircraft is expected to arrive on the island by November. It is still being reassembled in the US and must go through the necessary regulatory steps before being shipped to the Cayman Islands.
Police had initially said the helicopter would arrive in September.
An RCIPS spokesperson said the delays associated with the helicopter were unavoidable and had nothing to do with mechanical issues or the operational readiness of the 1999 model aircraft.