Helicopter unit boss sought

Wanted: An executive officer to run an Air Support Unit for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

The RCIPS has recently consulted with an expert from the United Kingdom on how to form and manage the police unit that will be involved in the day-to-day operations of the helicopter patrol, which Acting Police Commissioner David George hopes will be ready for service later this year.

The police purchased a 1999 Eurocopter model helicopter for $1.8 million last year. That aircraft is now in the US awaiting a pilot and maintenance crew as well as some final approvals and Memorandum of Understanding with the Civil Aviation Authority

‘As far as the helicopter is concerned, its ability to take off and fly…is imminent,’ Mr. George said. ‘But it won’t come across until we’re actually ready.’

The consultant, who Mr. George said was here for about a week, is not a pilot or a maintenance expert. Rather, the commissioner said their role was to advise operations from the police side of things.

‘The Portfolio (of Internal and External Affairs) invited them down just to have a look at where we are and start preparing ourselves for the introduction of a similar executive-type officer role,’ Commissioner George said.

Mr. George said the executive officer’s position will be advertised locally, and said police will go overseas to hire a suitable candidate if no one could be found on island.

‘Our long-term, or medium term aim will be…with a view toward successive planning, getting somebody from the Cayman Islands (to run the unit),’ he said.

Mr. George said most police air support units he was aware of in the UK have an executive officer to oversee operations and management, which can be quite complex.

The police service wants to hire a helicopter pilot with at least 3,000 hours of recent flight experience. The position is being bid through the Central Tenders Committee.

The RCIPS is also training a number of officers to staff the helicopter; not to fly it, but to perform various surveillance and search-and-rescue functions on board the craft.

Mr. George could not give a fixed date for the helicopter’s arrival on island – which was first expected in September 2007 – but has been delayed by the tendering process for a pilot, maintenance and the construction of a hangar as well as various civil aviation approvals.

But the arrival of the aircraft is edging ever closer to becoming a reality.

‘I would be disappointed in three months time if we don’t have something that’s like an ASU (Air Support Unit),’ Mr. George said.

Like the man he has temporarily replaced, Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, Mr. George said he is a strong supporter of police helicopter operations.

‘Particularly if you’re a small island in the region that we live in…it’s vitally important that you have the capacity to protect your borders,’ he said. ‘I think most people understand that can’t be done alone in the marine world.’

Right now, the police contract for aerial patrol services with Cayman Helicopters, an island tour service run by pilot Jerome Begot. The police pay for the aircraft’s services on an as-needed basis.

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