Cop chopper not airborne yet

The Royal Cayman Islands Police
helicopter that arrived last Thursday won’t be taking to the skies right away.

Police Commissioner David Baines
said the helicopter would have to undergo flight tests over the next few weeks
to attain Civil Aviation Authority clearance. RCIPS Air Support Unit members
will also require training and familiarisation with the new aircraft. 

“It depends on how long the
training takes for us to demonstrate and satisfy the Civil Aviation Authority,”
Mr. Baines said.

The chopper needs a police air
operations certificate from the authority, which basically allows the aircraft
to operate lower, and in more extreme flight conditions.  

In the meantime, Mr. Baines said
the Cayman Islands Helicopters aircraft would continue to assist the police
service when air support is required.  

The RCIPS Air
Operations Unit has been busy making plans for the arrival of the aircraft and
training for the staff that will operate it. The unit is based at the the Owen
Roberts International Airport.

The 1999
Eurocopter EC135 model is fitted with FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) cameras
and broadcast-quality daylight cameras, all with recording ability.

Mr. Baines
said the two-engine aircraft can operate up to 65 miles off shore, though it
does not have floatation devices installed, it can fly long enough on one
engine to ensure safe piloting at that distance. It also has the ability to travel
to all three Islands, the commissioner said.

The helicopter
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.

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 helicopter
will not be able to make sea rescues because it is not fitted with a winch.
However, Mr. Baines said the craft would be of great assistance in locating
individuals and pinpointing their location for Marine Unit rescue craft.

The police
service is also looking at the possibility that the helicopter could be used to
transport seriously injured patients from Grand Cayman’s Eastern Districts to
George Town hospital in emergencies.

Long-term
piloting and maintenance support for the aircraft has yet to be decided.

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 pilot
flying the aircraft down from Louisiana – James McAlpine – 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.

 “It’s here to make a difference to security on
the Islands,” Commissioner Baines said.

LOCALchopperSTORY

The new RCIPS helicopter lands at Owen Roberts on Thursday.
Brent Fuller
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