Hinds: Air Guard chopper back in service next month

One of the Gov­ern­ment’s four ground­ed AW139 he­li­copters is ex­pect­ed to be­come ser­vice­able with­in the next month, with two more short­ly af­ter, as well, says act­ing Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Fitzger­ald Hinds.

He gave the re­ply in the Sen­ate on Tues­day fol­low­ing query by Op­po­si­tion sen­a­tor Wade Mark.

Hinds said the he­li­copters were ground­ed in June 2017 be­cause of the “ex­treme­ly high cost” of main­tain­ing them as mil­i­tary he­li­copters cost over $150 m a year.

Their ab­sence from use be­came a dis­cus­sion point re­cent­ly fol­low­ing the crash of a Na­tion­al He­li­copter Ser­vices Ltd (NHSL) “chop­per” while on the search for eight es­caped pris­on­ers.

Three of the he­li­copters were trans­ferred for ap­proved main­te­nance and the fourth in long-term preser­va­tion.

“Based on the work done by Na­tion­al He­li­copter Ser­vices Ltd it’s now ex­pect­ed the first will be made ser­vice­able with­in the next month with two more he­li­copters fol­low­ing short­ly there­after. The fourth he­li­copter re­quires the most main­te­nance as this air­craft was ground­ed in Oc­to­ber 2016 for ma­jor re­pairs to its tail boom due to cor­ro­sion,” Hinds said.

“To this end, the T&T De­fence Force Air Guard con­tin­ues work­ing as­sid­u­ous­ly with the NHSL of­fi­cials to­wards re­turn­ing the four he­li­copters to full op­er­a­tional ca­pac­i­ty in the short­est time,” he added.

Hinds al­so said two C-26 fixed-wing air­craft have not been ground­ed and are used for search and res­cue, in­tel­li­gence sur­veil­lance, law en­force­ment sup­port, re­con­nais­sance and troop trans­port.

He al­so said the two Cape Class ves­sels which Gov­ern­ment or­dered from the Aus­tralian Austal ship­yard can be eas­i­ly in­te­grat­ed for use with­in T&T Coast Guard. He added the ma­te­r­i­al used in con­struc­tion and de­sign al­lows them to trav­el at greater speed and en­durance than sim­i­lar­ly sized steel ves­sels.

They can op­er­ate with two in­stead of four en­gines and they al­so car­ry “bal­lis­tic (bul­let­proof) pro­tec­tion” for oc­cu­pants.

Hinds as­sured they can al­so be eas­i­ly in­te­grat­ed in­to the ex­ist­ing com­put­erised main­te­nance man­age­ment soft­ware cur­rent­ly used by oth­er T&TCG ves­sels.

The alu­minum hull re­duces main­te­nance cost and time as­so­ci­at­ed with steel hulls.

Hinds said T&TCG ex­perts vis­it­ed the Aus­tralian ship­yard and ob­served and test­ed the ves­sels.

They pro­duced a re­port stat­ing the ves­sels are ca­pa­ble of op­er­at­ing to the full ex­tent of the T&T Ex­clu­sive Eco­nom­ic Zone and had the ca­pac­i­ty to con­duct op­er­a­tions in all en­vi­ron­ments in which the T&TCG now op­er­ates and is ex­pect­ed to op­er­ate in fu­ture.

The re­port al­so as­sured the ves­sels can be in­te­grat­ed with the six Austal ves­sels and Da­mon ves­sels cur­rent­ly in use by the T&TCG.

Reporter: Gail Alexander

Tags: 
Category: 
Favourite count: 
1
Favourite count ids: 
,63464