Haiti quake delays RCIPS chopper

The
arrival of the Royal Cayman Islands Police helicopter has again been delayed
from a previously scheduled date.

But
the long wait for police air support to aid in crime-busting operations is
almost over.

RCIPS
Air Operations Manager Steve Fitzgerald confirmed Wednesday that the helicopter
is due to reach Grand Cayman within a matter of weeks, after it underwent operational
acceptance testing in Louisiana, USA.

Deputy
Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis said that police anticipated the arrival of
the helicopter by end of January. However, the devastation in Haiti and the
subsequent restrictions placed on Haitian air space led the RCIPS to review its
flight plans and delivery schedule.

“The
route has given us a few challenges with fuel availability and the necessary priorities
surrounding Haiti
that we could not have envisaged,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “However, in gaining
the necessary permissions with the assistance of the Chief Immigration
Officer…I can confidently say that the helicopter will be with us in two or
three weeks.”

The
helicopter was once expected to arrive in Cayman in September 2007, but
interminable delays due to problems with the aircraft and commercial bidding
issues put off the chopper’s arrival.

The
RCIPS Air Operations Unit is now making plans for the arrival of the aircraft
and training for the staff that will operate it.

The
unit is based at the RCIPS Air Operations offices at the Owen Roberts
International Airport.

Police
Commissioner David Baines has applied for the necessary Police Air Operations
Certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority.

The
1999 Eurocopter EC135 model, purchased from a UK police service for $1.8 million
in 2007, is fitted with FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) cameras and
broadcast-quality daylight cameras, all with recording ability.

“I
am sure that the benefits of this technology will soon become evident, but we
do need to complete the training first to ensure the crew is fully able to
realise those benefits” Mr. Fitzgerald said.

The
helicopter also has aviation police radios that can be used in the Cayman Islands public radio system and carries a
‘Nightsun’ light capable of lighting up the area of a football field.

The
‘Skyshout’ public address system is capable of addressing those on the ground,
whether the message is an advisory to lookout for a missing person, a warning
to an offender, or passing along other information during a critical incident.

The
helicopter is also fitted with a video downlink system, which can relay camera
images to other officers or commanders, giving the benefit of real-time images
to those on the ground.

The
government recently received three bids for piloting services and is in the process
of assessing those applications. The provision of maintenance for the helicopter
is also being negotiated.

The
RCIPS has made interim arrangements to ensure that the aircraft is not delayed
any further on commercial grounds.

The
pilot flying the aircraft down from Louisiana
will be seconded temporarily to operate it until a bid winner for piloting
services has been announced. A similar arrangement is being made for helicopter
maintenance services.

LOCALrcipschopperSTORY

A close-up of the RCIPS Eurocopter.
RCIPS

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