One of Cayman’s two police helicopters will return to local shores on Tuesday, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Air Operations Unit Commander Steve Fitzgerald confirmed.
The choppers have been undergoing maintenance at the Airbus facility in the United States.
While the helicopters were off island, the Tailored Air Group (TAG) crew aboard the RFA Argus ship provided cover over Cayman, assisting with aerial support and border patrols.
“We’re really grateful that Argus and the Ministry of Defence responded in the way that they have done, to be here for two weeks, providing us with full cover for critical incidents and border security. It has been quite incredible, and we certainly appreciate what they’ve done. They’ve provided us with flying every day,” Fitzgerald said on Friday during an interview with the Cayman Compass.
X-Ray One, the newer of the two police helicopters is scheduled to arrive back in Cayman on Tuesday afternoon.
The second helicopter is expected to return in the coming weeks, though no formal date has been set.
“We’re expecting the second one back on island, hopefully, by the end of July,” Fitzgerald said. “We are working hard to achieve that. Airbus has completed all the maintenance and fit-out they need to do. We started air testing in Mississippi.”
Both RCIPS helicopters should be back in action on island by August, he said, “which will give us the flexibility and the response that we need for the hurricane season”.
Fitzgerald said the returning chopper was outfitted with its police equipment and will be ready to take to the skies.
A small police crew was dispatched with the helicopters and they will also be returning Tuesday.
Fitzgerald say that crew will have to be isolated on arrival to prevent any potential spread of COVID-19.
“There’s no exceptions; it’s the same as any other residents returning to the island. They will be isolating for 14 days. We knew that when they went, and the crew knew that when they left. We’ve been very careful just to send the minimum crew that we need to send,” Fitzgerald explained.
The Air Ops unit, he said, has two crews to take the aircraft off the hands of the arriving personnel.
After arrival, the RCIPS will completely sanitise the aircraft.
“They will be ready to run as soon as it completes that. In 14 days, we will be back to the three flight crews,” he added.
He said the plan was not to have both helicopters off island at the same time but the newer chopper had to be sent of modification to its equipment and the other needed a service.
“With all the flying we’ve done in the last three months, our hours increased to the point [that] we needed to send her away early, earlier that we expected to,” he said.
The arrival of the police aircraft end the tour of the RFA Argus helicopters locally.
The ship is sailing next to the Turks and Caicos Islands where it will also provide support to the police service there.
RFA Argus will remain in the Caribbean region for hurricane season on standby should any storms hit and relief assistance be required.