A new aviation business based on Cayman Brac will be involved in search and rescue, disaster response and medical evacuation services across the region, according to its founder.
Myles Newlove, owner of Daggaro Cayman, said the company would be a private contractor operating throughout the Caribbean and South America.
The company was granted planning permission last week for a helicopter hangar and airplane parking area and taxi way on land adjacent to the Charles Kirkconnell International Airport on the Brac.
It plans to station two Black Hawk helicopters at the site. The business, established in Cayman through the Tech Cayman initiative, describes itself on its website as an ‘aviation and intelligence services’ company.
Newlove said ‘intelligence’ was an industry term that referred to any kind of aerial surveillance – for example environmental monitoring after an oil spill or reconnaissance flights following a natural disaster.
The range of the aircraft will enable it to operate anywhere from Florida to South America, he said, adding the business will have staff stationed all over the world.
He cited private aviation companies, like the UK-based Bristow Group, as the type of business he was seeking to establish.
Private helicopter companies with highly trained staff are often leased by insurers, governments or major corporations, he said. They have been involved in everything from monitoring oil spills and rescue operations after natural disasters to searching for missing people or planes, like the Malaysia Airlines flight that went off the map in 2014.
Newlove, who is originally from Australia, where he served in the army, believes there is a gap in the region for this type of company.
He said the Brac was an ideal central location. The business currently has 10 staff on island but expects to bring in more expertise, in the shape of pilots and crew, including trained rescue swimmers, in the coming months.
“We have some of the best crew in the world coming down here,” he said.
Newlove said there could be some training done on island, but he expects the majority of business to come from private contracts across the region. He does not expect drones or fixed-wing aircraft to be part of the business plan in the initial stages, if at all.
Daggaro has applied to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands for an Air Operator Certificate and the business will look to begin operating as soon as it gets regulatory approval.
Plans for a 15,000-square-foot helicopter hangar, a 25,000-square-foot aircraft parking area, an office building, concrete apron and taxiway, were approved by the Development Control Board last week.
Though the application drew numerous letters of complaint from neighbouring landowners and the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, Newlove said the site, which abuts the existing airport, was the most suitable.
He said the land had been purchased from a private owner and the development would not encroach on the neighbouring West End Community Park.
Despite concerns over the impact on what is a nesting area for the endangered Sister Islands rock iguana, he said there was substantial forested area close by. Part of the conditions of the planning approval is that the Department of Environment will conduct a site survey prior to clearing, to ensure that no iguanas or nests are present. If any rock iguanas are discovered during construction or filling, the DoE must be notified immediately to allow for translocation.
The National Trust wrote in a letter objecting to the project that the forested area, where the site is located, supports the highest density of rock iguana nests on the island.
The loss of natural vegetation, and the impact on Nurse Smith Cave and an historic turtle kraal – used in previous generations to keep turtles alive until they were needed for consumption – were also cited as a concern in letters submitted to the board.
“Aesthetically, we believe that this new expanse of asphalt and accompanying outbuilding would create a first impression for visitors to the island which is at odds with the natural beauty that exists throughout the Sister Islands,” wrote one neighbouring resident in a letter of objection.