Police chopper flying missions

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The Royal Cayman Islands Police
Service helicopter began flying missions Wednesday afternoon, according to
Police Commissioner David Baines.

Mr. Baines confirmed the aircraft,
a 1999 Eurocopter model, received its police air operations certification from
the Civil Aviation Authority Wednesday. The certification is needed to ensure
the craft is safe to fly police missions with officers aboard.

“It’s been used already,” Mr.
Baines said.

The craft arrived in Cayman 4 March
and has been spotted aloft several times. However, Commissioner Baines said,
prior to Wednesday, that was for training purposes only.

“That was about demonstrating and
understanding the environment it has to work in,” the commissioner said.

The helicopter was first purchased
in July 2007 for $1.8 million. It was once expected to arrive in the Cayman
Islands in September 2007.

More than two and a half years
later, the RCIPS has its first full-time, functioning air support unit.

Piloting and maintenance services
going forward are still uncertain. For now, chopper pilot James McAlpine – who
flew the craft down from Louisiana – will stay at the helm.  Maintenance is also being contracted on an
as-needed basis through a company in the USA.

Mr. Baines said bids have been
advertised for both services and full-time contracts will be announced once
that process is completed.

The commissioner also noted that
RCIPS might still need assistance from time to time from Cayman Islands
Helicopters, which has previously provided contract services for police air
patrols.

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

The two-engine aircraft can operate
up to 65 miles off shore. It does not have floatation devices installed, but 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 has
said the craft will 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.

PULLOUT: “(The two-month delay
period) was about demonstrating and understanding the environment it has to
work in.” – David Baines, police commissioner commenting on the certification
of the RCIPS helicopter

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The RCIPS helicopter arrives in Cayman in March.
Photo: File
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