Cops say chopper still coming

| 03/02/2010

(CNS): It probably came as no surprise that the RCIPS helicopter did not arrive in Cayman last month as expected, given the controversy that has surrounded the acquisition of the machine since it was first mooted in 2007. Police said today, not for the first time, that the helicopter is due to arrive here in a few weeks. However, the newly appointed RCIPS Air Operations Manager, Steve Fitzgerald, confirmed that the machine had undergone operational acceptance testing in Louisiana last week.

The delay, police said, was due this time to the devastation in Haiti and the subsequent restrictions placed on Haitian air space, which led the RCIPS to review its flight plans and delivery schedule.

“The route has given us a few challenges with fuel availability and the necessary priorities surrounding Haiti that we could not have envisaged,” said Fitzgerald. “However, in gaining the necessary permissions with the assistance of the chief immigration officer, I am sure we are able to resolve this and I can confidently say that the helicopter will be with us in two or three weeks. All the project team (is) working hard to achieve this timescale”

In an official RCIPS release, police said that the RCIPS Air Operations Unit is making plans for the arrival of the aircraft and, as soon as it lands, training for the staff who will operate it will commence.

The unit is based at the RCIPS Air Operations offices at the Owen Roberts International Airport and Commissioner of Police David Baines has applied for the necessary Police Air Operations Certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority. “Having a dedicated air resource which can assist with searches, operations and tracking offenders will make a huge difference to the operational capacity of the RCIPS to protect our borders,” Baines stated.

The EC135 is fitted with FLIR (forward looking infra red) cameras and broadcast quality daylight cameras, all with recording facility for evidence. Police officials said that Fitzgerald, a former police inspector who managed a UK air support unit, is well acquainted with the equipment. “I am sure that the benefits of this technology will soon become evident, but we do need to complete the training first to ensure the crew is fully able to realise those benefits” he said.

The helicopter has been fitted with aviation police radios for use into the Cayman Islands public radio system, and carries a ‘Nightsun’ light capable of lighting up the area of a football field. The ‘Skyshout’ public address system is capable of alerting the public on the ground, whether it be to lookout for a missing person, an offender, or passing other information in a critical incident.

The helicopter is also fitted with a video downlink system, allowing the camera images to be relayed to other officers or commanders, giving the benefit of real time images to those on the ground.

Police did not say, however, if the chopper has been retro fitted with the necessary equipment, such as the pop-up floats and winch, in order to allow it to fly to the Sister Islands and act as a rescue vessel as well as a police operations unit.

The controversy surrounding the machine started when the previous administration announced they had been misled about the capabilities of the machine the RCIPS eventually bought by the former commissioner, Stuart Kernohan.  At the time Kernohan was on required leave as a result of the Operation Tempura incident, but he issued a number of statements suggesting the Cabinet was never misled but had simply not understood what could be purchased for the money which they budgeted.

The helicopter cost around $1.3 million and was acquired from a UK police service. Following the controversy, Auditor General Dan Duguay conducted a value for money report and observed that the goals of the elected government and the police when if came to what the machine would do had been at odds and miscommunication had resulted in a machine that was suitable for police operations but not for anything else.

Since then a decision was made to examine what could be done to adapt the existing machine to meet the wider expectations and then bring the machine to Cayman.

No information has been given about what if any changes have been made.

Police confirmed that the provision of maintenance and piloting for the long term use of the helicopter has still not been resolved and negotiations are continuing. “However, the RCIPS has made interim arrangements to ensure that this much needed operational resource is not delayed any further on commercial grounds, and the public can expect to see the aircraft in the air soon,” the police said. CTC has reportedly received three bids from firms wanting to take on the piloting services for the next two years.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    ahh.. the usual ‘soon come’ attitude with a few tall tales thrown in too….

    rcips…. a prime example of of the overpaid, over staffed, underperforming caymanian civil service

  2. Rorschach says:

    The other question that no one seems to be asking is this…We (the Cayman Islands) are an overseas Territory of the the UK..the Uk has a naval force…The Royal Navy…This Royal Navy has ships…These ships carry a multitude of rotor wing aircraft (helicoptors)…These helicoptors are very well maintained…These same Royal Navy ships visit the southern United States quite regularly on liberty call…New Orleans is in the southern US…The helicoptor is in Lousiana…New Orleans is in Louisiana…Why then, couldn’t the Cayman Islands Government reach out the UK gov and ask that the Helicpotor be transported to Cayman on a Royal Navy ship…and then certified by the Royal Navy engineers once it reaches Cayman???  I don’t think that there is a higher standard of Mechanic or Engineer than a military rated one…I open the floor for debate…

  3. Bert says:

    Just Put the thing on a D—- Boat or barge!!!Simple sheesh!!!!!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I heard it is fitted with special equipment that can zoom in close to check your license coupon date.  This will save those overweight badly dressed cops from having to stand in the hot sun, and allow them more personal time to use police cars for personal business (we have all seen them at Hurley’s Grand harbour parked on yellow lines while the cop shops!

    RCIPS – what a joke they really are!

    • Anonymouse says:

      Actually, I haven’t seen them parked on the yellow line at grand harbour doing their shopping at hurleys. But I can stand being corrected. Post some pictures next time you spot this infraction. A nice shot of the licence plate, above the yellow line, with a date/time stamp on it should prove your point.

  5. Joe Bananas says:

    In answer to all the millions of questions as to why the buying and delivery of a simple helicopter is takeing so long and costing so much much like many many things in Cayman is simply because it is being done by Caymanians with a job.  Any other Questions?

    • Anonymous says:

      In reference to it being a Caymanian is the reason why it is not here you can open mouth and insert your foot maybe you have foot and mouth desease.

      Please recall the Royal Cayman Islands Police Boats they were designed by a Caymanian Marine Unit Police Officer as the boats were being built the boats was inspected regularly by four people  three Police officers and one from the shipping registery to insure what they specified was what they were getting and that they met regulations, also these boat were built after the helicoptor and delivered before the helicoptor. 

      So maybe if a Caymanian had anything to do with the purchase and delivery of the Helicoptor it would have been here by now.

      And if you want to query what i said please google Royal Cayman Islands Police Boats.

      We Caymanians know what we what and how to get it but it is people like you that stands in the way. 

  6. Anonymous says:

    Why would the chopper have to go through Haitian air space ?That is far East if it is coming from the US.

    I call BS.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why is the Cayman Islands Government spending all this money on the helicopter when they had to bid it out to someone who can man it?  From the newspapers of last week there is only one company in the Cayman Islands that can handle it.  Why didn’t the government just contract them when needed?  It would have saved alot of money!!!!!  It isn’t like the helicopter is going to be up in the air 24 hours a day?????

    • Anonymous says:

      How could the chopper get to Haitian airspace if it’s "not allowed to fly over water"? 

      Wouldn’t it be vastly cheaper to secure the chopper to a container ship that was coming here anyway? 

      Perhaps one of the national liners would like to volunteer free shipping/landing/piggy back in the best interest of the islands?!?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Put it on an effing Boat.They sail weekly from Tampa and Miami!

    Keystone cops! I have had it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    …and the Christians say Jesus is still coming…


    I’ve been waiting damn near a millenia and still nothing…

  9. Anonymous says:

    The southern-most point in the United States towards Cuba, is Key West which is about 85-90 miles away. 

    Cuba is due north of the Cayman Islands and is approximately 175 miles away to the south coast-mainland. Places like Cayo Largo and Isle of Pines/Isle of Youth, is more or less in the 140-150 mile range.

    If the helicopter is in Louisiana, it would be prudent to fly into the Florida pan-handle and then head due south towards Key West. From Key West where you can refuel, then fly south to Havana and refuel again. From Havana, then fly to Cienfuegos or Cayo Largo and refuel again, then fly due south direct to Grand Cayman. This would be an obvious route to travel in terms of a shorter and safer journey, where fuel capacity is always an issue in a helicopter. Furthermore, the Cayman Islands and Cuba already have an established relationship in terms of our aircraft (Cayman Airways) traveling in and out of Cuba airspace on a daily basis.

    If going through Haiti airspace which is east of Santiago and Guantanamo Bay Cuba, you are really "travelling way out-east " to arrive in the Cayman Islands.  

    I’m sorry but I don’t exactly buy the excuse of what happened in Haiti, is really causing the delay in the arrival of the helicopter now. If I’m wrong, I pray that the helicopter is equipped with flotation devices, they may end up needing it if they fly through Haiti airspace direct to the Cayman Islands. 

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hypothetical and fictitious clarification from RCIPS Air Operations Unit:

    We decided to route our flight through Haitian airspace just so as to ensure that we wasted additional funds in the last phases of this fiasco, sorry fantastic operation. Despite the fact that there are two routes over Cuba which pass directly over and reasonably nearby to Grand Cayman, respectively, thus enabling us to consume less fuel, we are eager to test the helicopter’s ‘JetA-waste’ feature. In addition, contrary to all normal flight operations practices relating to crew time limitations, with the leading-edge ‘Sleepwell’ technology, our helicopter ensures that the crew will arrive as refreshed as they were prior to doing an extra 3 to 4 hours in the air. 

    Of course, since its purchase, the helicopter’s ‘Deelay’ feature has been active, thereby consuming a vast amount of fiscal energy but we would be remiss in our duties if we did not allow for further tests of this feature in a real-life setting.  We can assure the public, however, that when the helicopter becomes operational its classic ‘Screwup’ capability will be evident, and this will be enhanced by the ‘Nightsun’ light. As a helicopter is one of the most complex machines to properly maintain and as there are no certified helicopter maintenance facilities locally, whoever we select as our mechanic will be greatly assisted by the EC135’s ‘Autofix’ system.

    We are so excited about this we could just ‘Selfgratify’.

  11. Anonymouse says:

    to 18:36 – My guess is that the helicopter doesn’t have the range to make Cayman in one trip so it has to stop and refuel somewhere. Perhaps the US wont let you file an outgoing flight plan to Cuba, which leaves a Miami-Haiti-Jamaica-Cayman (Brac) transit as potentially the route with the shortest hops.

    I’m a bit surprised its flying itself here at all, though. I thought one of the issues was it didn’t have the legal capabilities to fly over water for very far (from GC to LC). I guess the others’ rules are laxer than the Cayman ones, at least for helicopters not planing to come back after they leave.

  12. Watering Hole says:

    why is it that all amunitation,  gear, personal effects and everything else is being bought from UK at such a high price for the Royal Cayman Islands Police.?  

    The police cars are comming from USA.  

    What is the reason that Items for the police Department is not being  bought in USA , where the cost is much cheaper?


  13. Anonymous says:

    My understanding is that the Helicopter is in the USA. That being the case, what would Haitian airspace have to do with bringing it here to Grand Cayman.

    If plans to bring it here include passing it through Haitian Airspace, then we obviously have a Manager in place who needs to be taught some Geography.

    Geographically we lie a long way west of Haiti and I can not understand why it would need to pass through Haitian airspace to get to Grand Cayman from the USA. I could understand that if it was being flown here from Europe but not from the USA.

    So would someone kindly explain just where this Helicopter is at the moment.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why is it being flown here at all.  Why not just put it on an appropriate ship (container, barge) ?   That is extra hours on the engine plus an high risk flight over water even going island to island thru Haiti airspace.

      • Watering Hole says:

        Now these questions make sense.   But is anyone listening.   HARD HEAD.

      • Anonymous says:

        So far, you are the only one to have made a comment to my post that makes any sense to me. However the others certainly have shown me why we are faced with the dilema of getting the Helicopter here.

        It obviously was not flown to its present location, therefore whats wrong with getting it here the same say it got to the US. Or do the people making the arrangements to get it here plan another operation Tempura spending spree seeing that we have so much money to waste.

        • Anonymous says:

          I am a qualified helicopter engineer.  Transporting a machine that was desgned to fly, by road/rail/ship presents a number of challenges.  These are precision built machines and beleive it or not they are not that tough to withstand transportation by road and/or sea.  Special precautions have to be taken to protect main gearbox bearings not to mention rotor disassembly and additonal shock load protection.  Once it arrives on the island, mechanics would have to be brought in to re-configure it and complete some safety inspections for damage, before declaring the machine airworthy.  There are warranty considerations too.  The maintenance provider may have made the CI Government sign a waiver, effectively dismissing any future warranty claims, if transported other than by air.

          It is not impossible to do, but more than likely the owner (CI Government) not knowing what they are doing, probably elected to take the more expensive route, because it is the easier one and ultimately you and I have to pay for it!

    • Anonymous says:

       It is not allowed to overfly Cuba, and does not have enough endurance to fly directly from the US, so it has to Island hop, with Haiti being one of the stops.

      • Anonymous says:

        Nonsense!  Just ask how Cayman Island helicopters brought their TWO helicopters here (one as since gone).  Haiti was not an issue.

    • Anonymous says:

      Reason being that Cuba is the route to take but a Police Helicopter landing in cuba even enroue thru needs special permission from the government and all special law enforcement equipment ie flir,camera etc would have to be removed from the aircraft…….  

    • Sierra Tango Oscar Papa says:


      There really is just no topic of news item esoteric or specialized enough not to elicit a pithy comment from some armchair quarterback.  

      In this case someone with the benefit of his Scholastic School Atlas and three years watching the old air show feels he has gained qualification as a routing and fuel management commentator for helicopter flight over extended distances across water across multiple airspace jurisdictions including one rather large communist one to our North not used to somewhat military looking helicopters flying over their countryside dodging every neighbourhood civil patrol leader unloading a clip out of their rusty AK47.

      Darn.  There I go making a pithy comment to his pithy comment.  Lets just leave it alone and trust for once that professionals are doing their job professionally and all in life is not a conspiracy.

    • Anonymous non-Pilot says:

      The helicoptor, like your car, has a limited number of miles that it can fly before it has to be refuelled.

      I would guess there are problems with the Cuba route, either because of flights originating in the US to Cuba, or the distance from the last refuelling point in Cuba to the nearest landing point in the Cayman Islands.

      A safer alternative must be hopping over to the Bahamas, down the Bahamas chain to Turks and Caicos and then (through Haitian airspace) to somewhere in the northwest of Jamaica. After that, west across Jamaica to Montego Bay, then onto Cayman Brac and then Grand Cayman.

      Does that help your Geography problem?


    • Anonymous says:

      I’m just speculating, but the typical flight range of a helicopter is generally less than 500 miles (some are considerably less), so a direct flight from the US to Cayman may not be possible.  Landing a US-originating helicopter flight in Cuba may also be a problem.  Looking at a map, that leaves a series of short hops going east around Cuba, which would indeed include Haiti.

    • Anonymous says:

      Is it possible that the Helicopter will be flown here instead of transported? If so I suppose they could island hop from Florida, to the Bahamas, Haiti, and thence Jamaica, before landing in Cayman. Is that possible? I thought there was some issue about using the helicopter over water, but maybe that applies only after it gets here? Just a guess but that would be a way of inimising the distance from land at any one time.