Although safety concerns about the Eurocopter EC-135 were heightened following last week’s deadly chopper crash at a Scottish pub, local police said they will keep using their older version of the aircraft for “years to come.”
The Eurocopter EC-135 T1 model used by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service was built in 1999. It was retired from the U.K.’s Thames Valley police force in 2007 due to new civil aviation requirements for instrument flight capability on helicopters.
Though the aircraft is now approaching 15 years old, local police indicate it still has relatively low engine miles. It costs an estimated $500,000 annually to maintain.
A statement released Tuesday indicated that police had not weighed replacement costs for the helicopter and wouldn’t engage in a hypothetical discussion about replacement costs.
“We are not in a position at present to estimate when the current helicopter may have to be replaced,” the RCIPS statement said. “It is a fully functioning critical resource which is rigorously maintained with parts replaced within life cycles and low engine miles.
“We hope that it will last for a number of years to come.”
The other two possibilities – sharing a helicopter with another Caribbean jurisdiction or renting an aircraft – are not being contemplated, RCIPS officials said.
Geographical constrains would make sharing a helicopter “wholly impractical,” police said, and renting a helicopter is not currently an option.
The police helicopter involved in the crash that killed eight in Glasgow, Scotland on Friday was a similar model to that used by the police service on island.
The 1999 Eurocopter model operated by the RCIPS is a Eurocopter EC-135 T1. The T1 has Turbomeca 2B1A1 engines, according to the RCIPS, and the T2 used in Scotland has Turbomeca 2B2 engines, “but to the layman there is little difference,” the police clarified in a statement.
“The RCIPS joins with policing services throughout the world in sending condolences to all of those involved in the police helicopter crash in Glasgow,” an RCIPS police statement issued regarding the crash read.
Local police said they were in “direct contact” with the aircraft manufacturer and would be informed on the cause of Friday’s crash.
“This type of accident is extremely rare and this particular model of helicopter has an exceptional safety record,” the RCIPS statement read.
The helicopter used by the RCIPS was purchased in 2007 for $1.8 million from Thames Valley police. It arrived on island about two years later.
The 1999 Eurocopter has not had reports of any major safety problems since the RCIPS began using it in the spring of 2010.