(CNS): The police have recruited a second pilot for the RCIPS Air Operations Unit (AOU). Richard Morcombe, who is currently flying with the UK National Police Air Service, is a former combat pilot with the British army. He actually flew the helicopter now operated by the RCIPS for four years when he was stationed at the NPAS East Midlands base before it was purchased by the Cayman government. Morcombe will join the team in mid-September. The RCIPS currently has only one pilot, which limits the use of the costly chopper.
A report by the UK Coastguard published earlier this year examining the circumstances surrounding a search and rescue in March in which five people died, including two children, highlighted the problems faced by the AOU with only one pilot.
Before joining the British police air service, Morcombe served in the army for 26 years, 14 of which were spent as a pilot in the army air corps, flying Gazelle and Lynx helicopters in combat roles.
He has been flying police helicopters for the last 13 years and has 7,000 hours of operational flight experience, including numerous daytime and nighttime overwater operations around the world, officials said in a release.
This will not be Morcombe’s first time in Cayman as he has previously flown two relief duty periods in the Cayman Islands in 2010 and 2011.
The issue of training locals to fly the helicopter and eventually become trained police pilots has caused controversy in the past. East End MLA Arden McLean raised the issue in parliament a number of times because a young relative of his had trained in the US to fly choppers but the RCIPS had decline to offer the young trainee any kind of apprenticeship.
During the budget debate in 2014, when McLean raised concerns about the failure of government to give Caymanians a chance in the civil service, he told his colleagues that his nephew had wanted to be a helicopter pilot since he was a child, and although he had learned to fly overseas and applied to join the local police, his application had been disregarded.
At the time however, Premier Alden McLaughlin berated his former PPM and Cabinet colleague and accused him of abusing his position in the LA to “blatantly” pursue the interests of a family member. He denied that the government had not tried to help his nephew and related the history about the young man’s application.
McLaughlin said the police pilot job required at least 1,000 hours of multi-engine turbine helicopter flight, which McLean’s nephew did not have.