Cabinet made mistakes over chopper

| 25/04/2016 | 69 Comments
Cayman News Service

RCIPS helicopter

(CNS): The independent member for East End said that mistakes were made by the PPM Cabinet he served in between 2005 and 2009 regarding the purchase of the police helicopter. As the lively and at times emotional debates got underway on Monday morning on two private members’ motions, Arden McLean admitted that he and his colleagues at the time did not seek the necessary advice about the criteria and allowed others to decide what they should fund.

After Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush presented his motion about the need for a judicial enquiry into the events surrounding the search and rescue operation for five missing people, including two boys, who never returned from a fishing trip, McLean expressed his concerns about the training, the promotion of inexperienced officers and other operational issues but also admitted that the helicopter which he and his Cabinet colleagues at the time had sanctioned was not fit for purpose.

Decisions were made “out of ignorance” and Cabinet had “allowed someone else to write the criteria for the helicopter instead of getting an expert”, he said, as he called for government to invest in a US Coast Guard helicopter because of the growing need from the increased marine activity.

He pointed to the numerous problems with the helicopter when it was purchased and the delays caused by its failure to pass the inspections for licence and the need to retrofit the machine before it could be brought here.

“That helicopter is not fit for the full purpose we need it for and we need to work on it to change that,” he said, as he recalled early fights with the police, who at the time wanted a fixed plane for drug interdiction.

He also criticised the RCIPS handling of the rescue boats, which he said were really good but there seemed to be “unprecedented difficulties with them”.

Although the RCIPS Joint Marine Unit is currently headed up by a Caymanian, Inspector Leo Anglin, McLean pointed the finger at overseas officers and implied that police from the streets of London could not understand local waters. He said resources were not being managed properly, noting that the boats were all stationed at the marine base in the North Sound, making it impossible for them to get out when the weather rough on that side of the island, and he urged the police management to station the boats at different places to avoid that problem.

He also queried claims that the police managed to right the upturned 28-foot missing Panga boat in which the five lost souls had gone fishing. The vessel was located during the search and rescue operation in 12-foot waves. McLean said he was “amazed that they managed to right the vessel” in such conditions, comparing what would have been massive waves to the height of parliamentary chamber, which he thought would have been “impossible”.

The East End MLA said the Cabinet he had served in had made an effort to create a volunteer force to support police search and rescue operations, as there were many local people who were willing and able, but the UK’s controversial overseas territories advisor, Larry Covington, had blocked that idea.

The debate continues. Check back to CNS for coverage of the contributions to the debate from the opposition leader and government and the contention over the planned review.

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Comments (69)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    McLean pointing at overseas officers on the Marine Unit from the streets of London who do no understand Cayman waters??????? Based on what, think you will find most boats have Caymanian captains. Just a slightly racist point Mr McLean, just slightly.

    • Know Facts not Dreams says:

      Yeh buddy, shows how much you know. There are several different nationalities who were considered qualified to captain the vessels, including the UK.

      So stop your “racists” remarks towards Caymanians you a$$.

  2. Anonymous says:

    John Evans, per your response you were not operating as an MI5 or MI6 agent. Therefore, assuming that you were in no way operating in a covert role, perhaps you might wish to clarify the following: for all your inside knowledge as a journalist, why weren’t you more vocal and effective as an investigative journalist while you were here?? Investigative journalism is a key bastion of a democratic society – you may have heard of Woodward and Bernstein!!

    In particular I don’t recall you or Cayman Net News ploughing into the helicopter matter in 2008/9/10 to the extent that you now display, yet you’re now revealing that you had so much info on that matter (and presumably other matters through which you became directly involved in a network of intrigue and undercover activity). Your info would have been crucial to the public (and perhaps some Legislators) at that stage, and may have actually made a difference – a fundamental responsibility of a good journalist!

    So, from this, I would be free to deduce that you were you were a gross failure as a journalist. Don’t you agree?

    • Anonymous says:

      Politicians and glory seeking journalists have had no business in this matter. The “client” in this case either CIG or Police, should have submitted a brief of their requirements, and an expert would then put before a Central tenders type body, several choices allowing the client to make an informed decision.
      Every other voice with a personal agenda should then butt out.

  3. Shhhhhhhhhh. says:

    Posssibly Commish Kern….. had too much freedom in the selection of the helicopter, and by pure luck chose one for which he was certified. LOL. Three out of five of the Marine Unit boats are trailerable, and therefore can be launched from Rum Point, East End , Frank Sound, South Sound, and Lobster Pot, so the point about weather is not really valid. Guardian is a disaster, Defender decent, interceptors are specialist and fair weather craft, and Typhoon is a near shore RIB and versatile having shallow water capability. Fixed wing aircraft can cover a larger area and in much less time than the copter, and at a fraction of the price, and is therefore better as a spotter of smugglers, and for search & rescue in a large search area, but not as good as the copter at taking detailed pictures or trailing vehicles etc. It is a matter of which horse for which terrain?

    The job to be done determines what type of aircraft to be used, and this can be an endless debate. Ideally, one of each is best, but a bit costly in capital expenditure as well as payroll expense. In search & rescue, the fixed wing is way cheaper in fuel,capitol cost, and operational efficiency. In surveillance ops, the copter is best, but expensive on fuel and maintenance. So, we must decide (a) What we need, and (b) What we can afford. The eventual choice is inevitably going to be a compromise one, which will forever draw critical fire. That is what happens when you have limited funds!

  4. Latoya says:

    Many years ago a young Caymanian paramedic who is a certified and trained helicopter pilot submitted a proposal to government via the then commissioner of police to set up a search and rescue programme that he would fly the chopper train others and run workshops to keep the process an ongoing one with many persons involved. At the time there was not yet a helicopter bought. guess what. his proposal went to the garbage and because the then COP was a pilot himself who felt he would get his own chopper and he would get to joyride it. So Cayman gets what Cayman wants regardless of the consequences!

  5. Caymanian idiot says:

    Of course they made a mistake!!! They had been offered a free copter from the US Coast Guard , just speak to the person who owns the local helicopter company. He was with all the MLA’S when the visited the US officers in the USA.
    So now go back to the drawing board, speak to the US and ask if they would like to have a small Base here!! Look what they give Jamaica to fight crime and search and rescue. Millions a yr!!!

  6. Driftwood says:

    Do you really want to saddle the RCIPS or government with training a pilot who would then June ship to the private sector contract or o contract. All the pilots in the UK come from the private sector with experience likewise in the US. So why are there not suitable Caymanian helicopter pilots in the private sector who are happy to take a salary cut to fly the RCIPS chopper.
    Ahh yes of course a deficient education system, it hits home everywhere.

    • Anonymous says:

      Driftwood. It is no wonder that you consider yourself driftwood .With an attitude like yours, you have probably been run out of a few places before landing in Cayman. FYI there is a Qualified Caymanian helicopter pilot who has been trying to get a job flying the police chopper but has been unsuccessful.Perhaps the Commissioner believes what you imply that being Caymanian disqualifies him because you cover all Caymanian with the ‘deficient education system ‘ umbrella. Shame on you.

      • Anonymous says:

        Correction – he is not qualified to fly the police helicopter, and therefore cannot have a job. Nothing to do with Caymanian as a lot make out, it is about qualifications and experience.

        • Anonymous says:

          AND he is the nephew of the person who now claims they did not do their homework when buying the helicopter….neither did they do their homework when choosing a helicopter pilot course, (funded by NBF?), to ensure it was a suitable course to become a pilot of the helicopter actually being used. My head spins…

          • Jotnar says:

            And not only is he not qualified to fly the helicopter they bought, but because it does not have dual controls he cannot ever get the hours as a co pilot to be the pilot in command. He will have to either go fly somewhere else to gain the experience, which is apparently unacceptable, or CIG will have to buy a different helicopter – which is why I start worrying when Mr McLean starts saying that he thinks the current helicopter is not fit for purpose.

      • Driftwood says:

        You missed the point completely and jumped on a race issue. Do you want government saddled with the massive training cost and secondly the poor education here. Wonder how many students from Cayman be they whatever nationality Creed or colour went on to be a qualified commercial helicopter pilot.
        And from the post below possibly you were also wrong about the qualified pilot…

  7. Anonymous says:

    This is why I keeps’ my ass on da damn beach.

    – Who

  8. Anonymous says:

    Do you all know what a search and ‘rescue’ helicopter costs? Probably looking at $15 million, and then it needs extensive ongoing maintenance. Then you need about 15 people to crew, (2 pilots, winch operator, winch man, times three crews minimum). So having bought the wrong helicopter (on the budget you had) you now have the money to buy one that can do search and rescue but completely over the top for every other kind of job? Reality check away from a politicians mouth needed I would think. And by the way, the ‘excellent boats’ are not excellent, they should never have been bought. And there is not one UK Captain running these boats, nearly all are Caymanian, but don’t let that get in your way of a good spin line

    • Get it right before you talk says:

      For your information, because obviously you do not know, the vessels are the right vessels. These type of vessels are used throughout the Caribbean by Police and Coast Guards. These vessels are multi-task ocean going vessels.

      For those that do not know, the larger vessels cost a lot more 5-10 million each! Just to start with. For those that say Lifeboat, ok then 6-9 million to start off with and it can’t catch drug runners. With each of these types of vessels the maintenance costs associated are higher than what is spent now.

      The lack of operational training is due to the RCIPS command not wanting to spend the money needed to train, because they fear the local officers will go out and work on their own. It’s been asked for on numerous occasions but was put off due to Police Operational needs.

      And yes there were a few and still is UK officers operating these vessels, as well as other countries, not just Caymanian.

      Know your facts and have the documents to back up what you say, before you open your mouth and stick your foot in it.

    • Shhhhhhhhhh. says:

      Ref the boats – Guardian is a glorified lake boat with major design issues, Defender is a decent near shore patrol craft, and the two interceptors Typhoon & Niven D are reasonably fast, but totally inappropriate in rough water and therefore very limited in application. Ask the crew members who have been injured in bad weather! Overall, not the best use of our funds!

      • Talk Facts Not Conjecture says:

        I seriously doubt you know what your talking about, as usual. Like the old saying goes opinions are like a$$holes, everybody has one.

        For your information the Guardian Design was duplicated 8 times since exactly.

        As for the crew members you claim were injured, it seems to me that if they learned what the seat belts were for then it would not be an issue. I would like to see you standing up when you are running 50kts in 6ft seas.

        It also falls to the vessels captain to ensure his personnel are safe and he runs the vessel appropriate to the weather, not balls out all the time.

        Also when the RCIPS command was given the option, at building, for the proper seats,they declined because bad advice from outside the department, and got cheaper seats.

        But as usual you are someone who talks out of their a$$ without the documentation to back up what you say.

        • Anonymous says:

          Actually the first commentator was 100% spot on. They are patrol boats, not all sea conditions rescue boats. If you want a lifebaot and coastguard service, resource it an pay for it.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Maybe because the tourist helicopter already has an experienced caymanian pilot

  10. Anonymous says:

    Ok,so purchase a bigger and better chopper.

  11. Anonymous says:

    EC135s can be fitted with a winch without a problem… so much for that advice!

    • Anonymous says:

      It can be fitted with a winch, but performance in this climate introduces limitations affecting safety of flight.

      • Anonymous says:

        You are wrong there, this climate does not affect it’s winch ability. It can be fitted, just this issue is nothing to do with winches.

  12. Anonymous says:

    John Evans, please answer this question truthfully: Per your seemingly intimate knowledge of the RCPS helicopter purchase and your definite involvement in the unauthorized intrusion (burglary) of Desmond Seales’ office, which prompted Operation Tempura, were you here as a genuine journalist or were/are you MI5 or MI6??

    Answer please.

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is an absolute joke, that the whole thing has become about the RCIPS Air Unit helicopter? These guys are amongst the most professional that work in this jurisdiction, and put themselves out a long way regularly and at times without the marine back up. There are people alive on these Islands today (and in Cuba!) due to the helicopter that does the job the business case asked for, and a lot more besides. The minority are making a lot of noise as usual, the silent majority think these guys do an excellent job. You say the helicopter was not the right one, then that is ignoring all the POLICE work it has done and successfully. All this talk about Coast Guard helicopters and dalphin helicopters, you moan about the police helicopter budget, you are not even close for a dalphin. If you were given one, it would be broken now and rotting alongside the fire engines on the airport.

  14. Anonymous says:

    cig and civil service incompetence is never ending….

  15. Anonymous says:

    All this time has passed and still foreigners flying and managing it. Where is the succession plan?

    • Anonymous says:

      Caymanians are running the boats and how are they doing with keeping them running and off the reefs? Where is the training plan on that? Imagine them with a helicopter. Its not about Caymanians against everyone else in the world. Its about (real) qualifications and experience. Very hard to fake it as everyone on the island can see. And not everyone can learn to do things like fly and manage a helicopter, Captain a boat safely, carry a gun, learn to be an honorable person, etc. There is good reason that most of the island thinks Anything run by or has anything to do with CIG is not done with competence. They also know why.

      • Anonymous says:

        Cayman airways pilots are said to rank among the best in the world. Don’t tell me there isnt one Caymanian that couldnt be trained with the existing pilots of the helicopter. So much time has been wasted already. This is not about Caymanian’s vs the world it is about the CIG investing in its own people.

        • Anonymous says:

          Don’t tell me there isnt one Caymanian that couldnt be trained. This should have read WANT’S to be trained. Big difference.

        • Anonymous says:

          No they are ranked as some of the highest paid in the world.
          Big difference. In the real world they would be paid what they are worth.

        • Anonymous says:

          Even I can see there is a big difference between flying airport to airport and flying a helicopter. Perhaps ask the Cayman Airways pilots (who are no worse or better than any other commercial pilots) if they want to become helicopter pilots? You may surprised at most of their answers

      • Anonymous says:

        You can have all the training that CIG can buy. There will still be a whole heap of ex military rotary pilots enter the job market each year with ratings, hours and experience Caymanians can only dream of.

    • Anonymous says:

      Local officers were sought to go abroad for training but none of them wanted to be away from their Mama’s rice and beans for the required period of time.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wher’s the qualified and highly experienced Caymanians to replace them..?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Purchase a Dauphin helicopter, identify 2 or 3 officers within the service who can be trained in the capacity of a pilot and willing to accept this role.
    Attach them to the unit and then bond them for x amount of years.

    • Anonymous says:

      Smart move? Estimate US$5-$6million for a good used helicopter plus the law enforcement equipment. Then add training costs (most police departments require six months training plus at least 500 hours before you fly in command) and the backup. You’ll be lucky to get this suggestion off the ground in two years and the bill will be US$10million+.

    • Anonymous says:

      He’ll no, I have seen some of those struggle to type a statement let alone use a vehicle correctly on a road!
      This is a joke right?

    • Jotnar says:

      Bond them?

  17. Dan Duguay says:

    I have to say that I agree with Mr. McLean about the lack of criteria regarding the helicopter purchase. In fact, I said so in a report written in 2008 on the matter. The report is still available on the OAG website for those who are interested in reading it.

    • John Evans says:

      What is interesting is that this report was released around the time Stuart Kernohan was being fired and the fact that his version of events was disputed by both the Cabinet and the CAACI.

      In fact at that point Kernohan had been suspended for roughly six months and during that time all records of the relevant discussions he had been engaged in involving the helicopter during the months prior to his suspension had mysteriously disappeared. Hmmmmm?

    • Diogenes says:

      Who got the $46k finders fee? Reading your report it seems the decision to buy that specific chopper was made very early on and then justified by reference to the consultant. No mention of alternatives being brought forward by any broker, and as the aircraft sold by EMP was the only EC135 on the market….No chance Mr Kernohan already knew it was for sale?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Yeah and if the average person made such an expensive mistake on our jobs, we would be fired on the spot. It’s time to get rid of these spend-thrift bobo-the-clowns. Every last one of them, needs to go.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s the difference between an employee and an elected representative. An employee who screws up gets fired but a politician who fouls up goes crying to his loyal electorate every four years and the bobos re-elect him.

  19. Anonymous says:

    The inadquencies of the police helicopter in the RCIPS – should lie with the one individual who arranged for it to be purcased in the UK, along with cabinet who provided the funds to acquire it.

    The present police helicopter was designed for traffic patrol and on land police operations, not to pluck people from the sea (day or night) in a search and rescue situation.

    Our foolish politicians always swallows line, hook, bait and sinker if an Englishman or other waterlogged forigner suggest or tells them to do so.

    Why did they not accept the US Coast Guard helicopter that was offered FREE to them in 2000 along with a fixed wing aircraft and two go fast drug interdiction vessels ?

    It was to be given FREE OF COST by the United States Government but our foolish people in power, wanted to waste local tax payers money instead.

    Fuc@$&@ Ass$&@!$

    • John Evans says:

      The SAR requirement came from CIG not RCIPS. I reported on it at the time and it was forced on Kernohan against advice that fitting a winch to the EC135 was not a viable option. If you’re going play the blame game at least point the finger in the right direction.

      As for the USCG farce? The reason it was turned down was, in my opinion, because certain individuals knew just how effective USCG were at drug interdiction – they’d have put them out of business within weeks.

    • Anonymous says:

      If someone’s cousin is not making a buck, nothing happens.

  20. John Evans says:

    Sounds like an attempt to re-write history here. What messed up the helicopter was a bunch of MLAs who knew nothing about aviation interfering with the project. Take for example their insistence on it taking on an SAR role and the fiasco over whether or not a winch could be installed.

    I can vouch for the fact that at the time the EC135 was purchased it needed minimal updating. The only reason Thames Valley Police had to replace it was because the CAA in the UK had mandated equipment to cope with conditions in the UK which could not be retro-fitted into the airframe. Despite this the project was subjected to a barrage of rumours and misinformation designed to discredit it before the thing even got off the ground. I remember allegations that the engines were short-lifed, that major components needed replacing, that the aircraft was damaged and only fit for scrap and it was over-priced – it was all complete bull. In fact the EC135 was relatively low-houred and thanks to the Home Office funding package RCIPS got it at a bargain price, well below market value.

    If there’d been no political interference the machine could have been processed through the USA and delivered to RCIPS in late 2007 or early 2008 rather than sitting idle in a hanger until the beginning of 2010.

    It was at the time (and still is) my belief that certain politically-connected individuals made a concerted effort to frustrate the creation of the RCIPS Air Operations Unit. In fact the suspicion at the time (June 2007) within RCIPS was the helicopter was seen by them as such a serious threat to their nocturnal activities that it had to be stopped.

    As for the USCG option? This is a very old story that came up during the EC135 debate and it turned out that at sometime in the early 2000s CIG had been offered to base an HH-65 Dolphin at ORIA, fully funded by the US government, for drug interdiction and SAR. The offer was rejected – I leave you to draw your own conclusions on why that was.

    To paraphrase Apocalypse Now, “The BS piles up so fast here you need wings (or a helicopter?) just to stay above it!”

    • Anonymous says:

      Funny, I do believe the US at some point had offered the gov’t to take over the radar that was once here for drug watching. They declined that also, although there may have been some cost involved with that one, I don’t know the details.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ok the US ran the radar at the end of the runway. It was a primary radar the same as on war ships, and the data was sent to Key West. When the drug trade moved to central America and the Democrats came in (Clinton era) the radar was shut down, packed up and taken home leaving only the shell.
        There was rumored to be an offer to hand it over but running costs would have been crazy for the return.

    • Anonymous says:

      Am I correct that you infer there was local corruption involved in the mismanagement of the helicopter program and further corruption that rejected the US government offer to fund a helicopter for drug interdiction and SAR?

    • John Evans says:

      Before anyone else pulls me up on this – it wasn’t Thames Valley Police that sold the EC135 but East Midlands Police. The reason for the glitch was that at Net News we had to use a TVP photo because there weren’t any on file for EMP and I had a memory lapse.

      Going on to another comment and Dan Duguay’s October 2008 report I can confirm that the issue of the gearbox replacement was not in the survey for the EC135 that RCIPS had in June 2007. Certainly that information was not available to the rumour-mongers.

      As I’ve just posted the link to Dan’s report what is also interesting is the way in which there is no record of the numerous meetings that Kernohan had with the Cabinet and CAACI – there’s always been something very screwy about that. I know for a fact that during the latter part of 2007 he was having serious issues with Cabinet over both the helicopter and the re-equipment of the Marine Unit.

  21. Crab Claw says:

    I really wish you could watch CIGTV free to air.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Well let’s give the guy credit. In 16 years here I have never heard any polli take any responsibility for a mistake.

  23. Jotnar says:

    Need a replacement chopper with a co pilots seat so someone’s relative can fly it.

    • Allar says:

      I don’t know who you are Jotnar, but I assume you are not a Caymanian so I will pardon you and your ignorance. Yes you darn right so one of our own can fly and why not you nutter, we paid to help send him to school and when the English pilots leave then one of our CAYMANIANS should be ready for the job. so you are right Mr. Nutter. Next time think before you open your big mouth and engage your little brain

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah, we spent all that money training a Caymanian so we could spend more employing them in a position that we don’t need and can’t afford.

        I don’t know who you are Jotnar but if this does not make good sense to you, you must not be Caymanian. And definitely not from the Brac.

      • Anonymous says:

        Why is this Caymanian not flying the tourist helicopter to get his hours up? And get his hours up he does have to do. You totally misunderstand what the requirements are for police flights, chack across the world. It takes hours to make an experienced pilot.

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