Police helicopter no use

| 04/09/2008

(CNS): Even before the long awaited police helicopter has arrived in the Cayman Islands, the government has announced that the machine will not meet local requirements. Minister Arden McLean put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Stuart Kernohan. “That Commissioner of Police misled us into believing that it would do what we needed it to and I am extremely disappointed. I was not elected to waste people’s funds,” said McLean.

The announcement that the helicopter was not equipped to fulfil the government’s original remit as laid out in various policy documents  was made at the weekly post-cabinet press briefing by the Leader of Government Business, Kurt Tibbetts, who said government had just learned the bad news.

“We were told all along that this helicopter would meet the policy needs but we have only now discovered that the government was misled,” said Tibbetts. He explained that the purchase of an aircraft was part of the $50 million commitment that the People’s Progressive Party (PPM) government had made to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) soon after coming to office in order to make Cayman more safe and secure. He said however, the policy requirement from the beginning had been that any aircraft acquired would serve all three islands and be able to operate on or offshore, day and night.

“We have now learned that the aircraft which was acquired cannot fulfil these fundamental requirements as it currently stands,” said Tibbetts. “Efforts are underway to ascertain the practicalities, costs and time scales of modifying and or equipping the unit to meet these fundamental requirements. Once this information is determined we will take a decision on which way to proceed.”

He said that it was also possible that the helicopter would be sold and the search would begin again. All three ministers at the briefing, which also included Minister Charles Clifford, expressed their disappointment over what they said was misleading information given to them by those involved.

Tibbetts said the government had heard, at the very least, six updates from the Commissioner about the helicopter and were never once told that the machine would not meet all the requirements. Minister Mclean also said that not only had they found out, after the government kept probing with the Portfolio of Internal Affairs to find out what was happening, that the helicopter could not function fully at night, but also that it could not be fitted with flotation devices to save the crew in the event they needed to bail out.

Reacting to accusations that rumours had persisted that there were serious problems with the helicopter for some time now, the ministers all said that while they were being told by their technical advisors time and time again that all was well, and they had no reasons to disbelieve the Commissioner who they said was very much at the helm of the project.

“The Commissioner misled me,” said McLean. “Stuart Kernohan did not give us the proper information.” The government said that the problems had finally come to light since new people had taken over the project and eventually discovered the various problems. Tibbetts said that so far around $2.8 million had been spent, and although he did not believe the money was missing, he believed that the money had been spent on a helicopter that simply was not up to the job it would be required to do. He also explained that the announcement was being made now because the government had discovered the problem and wanted to see if they could mitigate the circumstances before things went any further.

The Ministers also emphasised the constitutional problems highlighted once again by the system of government that keeps elected officials out of police business. The government said that as they are not responsible for the operating issues surrounding police work and only responsible for appropriating funds and directing policy, their hands are tied when things go wrong.

Minister Mclean made it clear he would like to see Kernohan, who currently remains on suspension from his post pending an external investigation, removed from office. Kernohan is still on full pay while the investigation by Metropolitan Police officers from London, led by Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger who is on contract to the Governor’s office, continue their enquiries into allegations of corruption within the RCIPS. Tibbetts said that the helicopter debacle did not form part of the independent investigation currently being conducted by Bridger and his team.

CNS is continuing to make efforts to contact the Acting Commissioner David George, Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis, Suspended Commissioner Stuart Kernohan and the Governor’s office for comment.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Err, hello?  Re: Kernohan being to blame… can I hear the word "scapegoat"??!!

    If you are responsible for the ‘public purse’, is it really sensible at all to spend all that money on a helicopter on the recommendation of a police man?  Or would you have the common sense to spend (proportionately), a small amount of that money on research and an expert opinion/recommendation before committing the full amount?  If the expert turns out to be wrong, you then have recourse through legal channels to sue him. 

    On this particular occasion, I’d say its not reasonable to hold Kernohan responsible and claim you were "misled".  Fess up and admit you were wrong.


  2. Anonymous says:

    The Cayman Islands cannot survive such inept politicians for much longer.  They just lurch from one fiscal disaster to another.  I agree with one poster, their modus operandi is to look for an expatriate to blame, get rid of him or her and move on to the next disaster.  It is obvious that this government cannot learn from their previous mistakes, and therefore they continue to repeat them.

    Where is the opposition who should be calling for a vote of "no-confidence"?  Of course they won’t win it, but they will be able to see that the public is behind them.  We need early elections, and the Governor should be able to see this.

  3. Anonymous says:

    To correct some of the post below with what I know: night vision is NOT required to fly at night. That’s only needed for the police observers onboard trying to see people or whatever on the ground at night.

    However, according to the aviation regulations, aircrafts need additional instruments fitted in order to be certified for night flying. Those are "cockpit instruments" not related to night vision but are needed so that the pilot will be able to fly the aircraft when there isn’t enough outside lights to establish visual ground references (like knowing where the horizon is for instance, a crucial reference when flying any aircraft). Since, unlike Grand Cayman, the Sister Islands don’t have much ground lights at nights those instruments become a necessity when flying at night over these two islands. This is probably why the current helicopter has been able to fly at night over Grand Cayman but isn’t ableto do the same over there. Also, the flight from Grand Cayman to the Sister Islands isn’t possible at night without proper instrumentation since once again, there are no visual ground references available at night for the trip.

    The instruments required vary depending on whether the flight will be during the night hours but in visual conditions (like flying over Grand Cayman at night with a full moon) or whether it will be in full "instrument" (IFR) conditions (similar to fly over the ocean on a dark night or flying in clouds).


    • Anonymous says:

      I beg to differ. A flight to the Sister Islands with the pilot using night vision equipment is possible at night, without the extra instrumentation required by the AN(OT)O. The MLAs have all alluded to the fact that certain things such as night flights to the Sister Islands are not possible, when in fact they would be if they had NVGs and VFR conditions i.e moon and waves. If the conditions are flat and moonless then my previous point stands and the flight would have to be under IFR. This is what the MLAs are using as a stick to beat the Commissioner, that full IFR is not possible because it is a VFR machine, but my point is that if the requirement is to take off and fly under full IFR conditions, then the chances are that the crew will not be able to fulfill their mission at the other end anyway. As I previously said, full IFR requires more than just an IFR machine. The infrastructure as it stands at the moment does not support a 24 hour IFR set up. The machine will perform better than the current set up – just because it has more equipment. It will not do it all but there and again if the Islands had bought an ex coast guard Dauphin then it would not perform well in supporting ground operations and the residents would be up in arms over the noise. This is a brilliant machine – we have just got MLAs who appear to have another agenda and fiscal eyes bigger than their bellies.

  4. Anonymous says:

     I have to agree with the posts and i am pro caymanian to the core. 

  5. Anonymous says:

    Why didn’t anybody check with the Helicopter Company that flys tourists around what would be a suitable Helicopter model for Cayman?? But that would make common sence and that seems to have left our shores.


  6. Anonymous says:

    What utter garbage. The helicopter is more than capable of flying at night, except when the weather or visibility is too bad – in which case Instrument Flight Rules would apply.  After all the current helicopter flies at night.

    If the helicopter is needed to fly in the early hours of the morning then the control towers would need to be opened to control the IFR aspect.  But with night vision equipment the machine can be flown at night, unless it is totally moonless. That said there would be no point in flying IFRon a moonless night because no one in the aircraft would spot anything to save. The best night vision equipment in the world cannot see without some form of ambient light. So in this circumstance the aircraft would not help. Night vision equipment is needed for night flying. It costs money and training. This is true whichever machine is flying. At the moment I am told that the govt has failed to stump up the cash for this equipment. It is this that enables the crew to fly and operate safely at night. This is what will give them the ability to spot the horizon and boats that are adrift.

    All UK air support units up to now have been single pilot VFR machines. They are now required to be IFR, and the cost to upgrade the machines that are VFR to IFR is prohibitive. Tghis is why the machine was sold in the first place. This requirement has been subject to criticism as nearly all operate overland and within sight of the ground for tactical reasons. Flying in IFR  conditions just makes it a passenger carrying machine that performs no real function. If they cannot see the ground why are they up in the first place? This machine would more than serve the Islands. The whole idea was to provide a machine that would support officers on the ground through the use of its on board equipment , mostly over land, sometimes over sea. Search and rescue is the minor function though no less important. At the moment the helicopter that is used performs well but with the equipment on the new machine it would greatly enhance operations. The issue with pop out floats is really rubbish. The 135 is a twin engine and as such will fly on one engine. The single engine machines are pop out equipped because if your one engine fails then you go down. In a twin you can fly to safety. If you encounter total engine failure then the machine will still auto rotate to sea level, but will then sink quickly. How quickly the crew exit will depend on the landing and training. I am led to believe the crew are practised in this. In a single the pop out will delay the sinking depending on the landing, but inevitably the machine will end up inverted due to it being top heavy. The pop outs are a comfort blanket but to say the machine cannot fly over water is rubbish. 

    This is not about capabilities or lies. It is about politicians trying to get their hands on the police and are using this as a stick to beat the Commissioner, who stuck to his guns when the politicians tried to muscle in on the proper chain of command, who stuck by his boss and then appears to have been shafted by him.  This is about them being told that a helicopter was needed and were given a total for yearly operating costs that they cannot now meet so they are trying to save face. Arden is quite right that he has no say in whether the Commissioner stays or goes – so why is he so vehement in his opposition to him. Sounds very personal. This is all smoke and mirrors.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Our politicians must have spent a few sleepless nights to come up with this ridiculous explanation!!!  This is a very good case as to why we need educated officials in office.   Come on, my four year old can play the "gee, I didn’t know what it was" but our goverment looks FOOLISH if they think we believe that they did not receive a quick briefing on the type of helicopter THEY ORDERED.  Look at the receipt boys.  Funny, how no one questions the Caymanian in charge of the project for the past 90 days, QUPOTING: "Acting Police Commissioner David George hopes will be ready for service later this year. The police purchased a 1999 Eurocopter model helicopter for $1.8 million"

  8. Anonymous says:

    Kernohan should have ascertained, via the many means at his disposal, what the requirements were BEFORE putting his proposal to the Government.  He must have been clueless about the reality of this silly idea and had too much power / budget money given to him to spend. 

    Admittedly the Government should also have ensured that the basics of his whims were correct.  Seems the guy was keen to get a new toy at Cayman’s expense, and had not done his homework first.   To fly at night, a helicopter has to be suitably equipped and certified for IFR (Instruments) flights, and its crew also has to be suitably trained and experienced.  All helicopters flying over any water must have Floatation devices on the skids as a safety feature – a helicopter is an inherently unstable machine that cannot glide, as such.  This machine must now have cost us a great deal in shipping and storage all this time, dead money that cannot be utilised, and now loss of interest on money spent and asset value in the meantime.  No doubt it can be sold but at a substantial loss, I suspect.

    I do not think we really need a helicopter, there is one on island already, perfectly adequate to run the RCIP around the island if necessary, at far less than the cost of purchase and running costs of this lame duck.  A helicopter has huge running costs and this one would not be bringin any money in – such a black hole piece of equipment.  Waste of money, far better spent on an Air Ambulance.

  9. Anonymous says:

    How absolutely ludicrous!  McLean’s government authorized the purchase so they are ultimately responsible for their actions.   Do McLean and his Ministers honestly think that the intelligent people of Cayman will believe his announcement that one person is solely to blame?

    I find the timing of this announcement very interesting, as the investigation into Cayman’s ‘Top Cops’ has been ongoing for the last five months.  No charges have been laid, with the exception of Rudy Dixon.  The cost of this investigation must be prohibitive, and obviously hasn’t uncovered any inappropriate actions on theparts of Jones and Kernohan.  Now what?  The government needs to save face so blame the ex-pat so he can be fired, then kick him off of the island.  Sadly, we’ve seen this in the past but the question is are we going to support McLean’s decision.  How many ex-pats have to be scapegoated before the blame is placed where it should be?  Is this how to treat people who have committed to making Cayman a safer place for all to enjoy?  We all know of the corruption in the RCIP.  As stated in another news article, Kernohan requested the investigation by Metropolitan Police officers from London into this corruption.  Is this not the action of a person committed to his job?   Shame on McLean and his government for pointing fingers to save their own face.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thank God we have a system of government that keeps elected officials out of police business!


    It has taken an independent investigation by no less than England herself to even begin to bring to light and sort out the corruption and the mess within the RCIPS. If the ongoing trial of a former MLA is any indication, just imagine what the situation might be like if politicians were in charge of our police. I would opine that if politicians were in charge of RCIPS matters now and Lyndon had a few well-placed ministerial cronies, his case would never have seen the light of day.


    I bristle at the poppycock uttered by the Ministers saying their "hands are tied" when things go wrong. That is pure tripe!  If the politicians are in charge of policymaking and they control the appropriation of funds, then their hands are hardly tied.


    It is only logical to conclude that if the Ministry can now “ascertain the practicalities, costs and time scales of modifying and or equipping the unit to meet…fundamental requirements”, they could have done so well before this became a multi-million dollar fiasco.


    The case of the unsuitable helicopter is simply an example of poor policymaking and bad judgment. Of course if the politicians are successful at getting a gullible public to believe that it’s not their fault at all when things go south then they can avoid the consequences of their inept governance.


    Their attitude is also a telling indictment of our leaders’ retroactive, rather than pro-active, way of governing. Rather than having to react once the fox has raided the henhouse, would it not have been better to have had policies in place that would have ensured that each step of the due-diligence and acquisition process for the helicopter was verified, before over $2 million was mis-spent?


    Their hands were not tied when the proposal to purchase a helicopter was approved. And their hands were not tied when the appropriation for the funds to purchase the aircraft was signed, although in hindsight they should have been tied, securely at that.


    The politicians could not even exercise the degree of prudent governance and proper management of public funds to see to it that department heads in their ministries submitted proper accounts until we had a billion-plus dollar mess with some accounts not being updated in several years.


    It took government years to pull their heads out of the sand and realise that some department’s fiscal reports were a tad bit late?  Please be reminded that the ministers did have direct administrative control over most of the departments in question, but that did not prevent some $1.5 billion of government budgets to remain unaccounted for.


    It is worthy to keep in mind that when the Auditor General began to make the absent reports public, government denied that there were $1.5 billion in government funds not properly reported. Now, imagine the results of putting a department as vitally important and sensitive as the Police under the control or even substantial influence of politicians. It gives me the shivers to even think about it!


  11. Anonymous says:


    I’m sorry what utter nonsense
    A helicopter that can’t fly at night, I’ve never heard of such a thing! That’s about as hard to find as a car that can’t drive at night, or a commercial aircraft that can’t fly at night! Come on Its September not April Fool!

    As for not fitting buoyancy for crew bail out, can’t they just where life jackets?

  12. Anonymous says:

    A police commissioner who does’nt work buys a helicopter that does’nt fly purchased from funds we don’t have by politicians who don’t know whats going on.

    It sounds like a great comedy script to me?