Cayman officials looking for additional helicopter

The RCIPS helicopter is seen on 26 Jan. after sustaining damage during an aborted landing at the Owen Roberts International Airport. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

A new police helicopter may be coming to Cayman, but how and when will not be known for at least several weeks.

Matthew Forbes, head of the governor’s office, said the police helicopter that was damaged in February, when its tail hit the ground during take off, will not be returning to Cayman and will have to be replaced.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service acquired a new helicopter in March. But Forbes said it is recognised, especially with the establishment of the new Coast Guard, that Cayman needs two helicopters.

During his recent visit, Minister of State Lord Tariq Ahmad reportedly said the UK government would support such an addition. Forbes said that does not necessarily mean Cayman can expect the same kind of assistance Ahmad’s office provided with the purchase of the most recent helicopter.

Through a memorandum of understanding between the Foreign and Commonwealth office and the Cayman government, the UK provided 25% of the $11 million purchase price and ongoing operation of the helicopter. Part of the agreement was that the helicopter would be used for disaster relief in other UK overseas territories when needed.

The black Airbus H145 not only has the capacity to serve in law enforcement operations, but can also help in search and rescue and provide medivac services. The twin-engine aircraft has a range of 423 miles with a top speed of 167 mph.

Forbes said there is no guarantee that a similar arrangement would be made to replace Cayman’s original, damaged helicopter.

“There are lots of discussions that need to happen,” he said.

Those discussions are only just getting under way, but Forbes said he expects a plan will be reached in the coming weeks.

The police helicopter was not initially belived to be significantly damaged in the incident in February. At the time police said it would be temporarily out of action following what was described as “an uncontrolled command failure” while lifting off at the airport on a routine deployment.

The sudden aborted takeoff caused the tail of the helicopter to strike the ground, causing damage.

No-one was injured during the incident and the pilots were commended for averting a more serious accident.

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