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The Editor Speaks: Police helicopter

Colin Wilsonweb2I have not wanted to add my penny into the debate over the police helicopter but I have been prompted to say something as I was contacted by John Evans.

He sent me a copy of his email to CNS and it is only today I have actually looked at the CNS website to see what made him send off his missive.

He is a brave man because of the negative response to what he said.

Evans was answering East End MLA’s admission of mistakes made by himself and his colleagues during the 2005/2009 PPM administration.

He said,

“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.”

From CNS

Evans reply was:

“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 from Mr McLean and his colleagues 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!”’

Evans told me, “In 2007 [then RCIPS Commissioner Stuart] Kernohan, knowing that I was pilot and had briefly worked in aviation, showed me all the paperwork for the EC135. All it needed en route from the UK was some fairly minor upgrades and re-painting but then Arden and his mates decided to interfere. Kernohan even had an ex-UK military engineer on-island (he was working for Jerome) and they went to check the machine out after it was moved to the USA.”

The Auditor General at the time, Dan Duguay, in his 2008 report stated that both the Cabinet and CAACI denied having any discussions with Kernohan over the helicopter. Evans is emphatic that is not true. He says “Kernohan was fighting with the Cabinet over both the helicopter and the re-equipment of the Marine Unit. He told me that at every meeting they moved the goalposts.”

He ends with the comment – “How convenient that after he [Kernohan] was sacked all records of this vanished?”

I have no comment to offer to that.

However, I have always been astonished at our Leader of the Opposition’s opposition to our police unit having a helicopter at all. When he last came to power he said he was going to do away with the helicopter, even though it came under the Governor’s portfolio. I presume this was going to be done with making no funds available for it.

I am sure the drug dealers here would have seconded McKeeva Bush’s motion gladly to have the helicopter removed. Just because it is there makes drug dealers think twice and that cannot be measured by an accountant.

Even if this helicopter is not the best one we could have obtained it still has been worthwhile.

And that raps up my debate on the helicopter!


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