Cayman’s police helicopter pilots travelled to Jamaica with the new chopper recently for a training exercise flying in the mountains.
The terrain training was required as the new helicopter will be used for disaster relief in other jurisdictions around the region.
“It was a training exercise for the two pilots under the flight training captain,” said Police Commissioner Derek Byrne. “This gives them the flight certification to fly terrain and use the navigation equipment in the new helicopter.”
The pilots of Cayman’s air support unit are now fully qualified on the new helicopter.
Byrne joined the pilots along with Robert Scotland, the commander of the new coastguard, on the trip to Jamaica, for discussions with the Jamaica Defence Force on greater partnership over drug interdictions.
He said there was frequent drug traffic between the two countries and there had been several recent marine raids, including one where nearly $1 million of ganja was confiscated after a shoot-out at sea, that had required collaboration with the JDF. He said he was working to formalise that and look for further partnership opportunities as the Cayman Islands Coastguard is established.
“The idea is that we need some kind of bilateral agreement for pursuit,” he added.
Byrne had faced criticism after an online news report suggested he had used the helicopter for personal travel to a funeral in Jamaica and on a second occasion to pick up an award.
He acknowledged that he had visited the funeral of a close family member of one of his RCIPS officers during the trip to Jamaica, but said this was not the purpose of the trip. He said the helicopter was travelling to Jamaica for the training exercise, and he and Scotland had gone along for talks with their JDF counterparts.
“I wasn’t using it as a taxi,” he said. “It was official business and dealing with a national security issue with the JDF. Yes, we piggybacked onto the flight training exercise that was going on to do that.”
He said the second allegation that he had used the helicopter to take him to Jamaica to pick up an award was simply untrue.
Byrne said he had travelled by Cayman Airways to pick up the 2018 Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director’s International Achievement Award from the US Department of Homeland Security at the US Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica on April 28. He produced copies of his tickets to corroborate this.