(Trinidad Express) Two Augusta Westland helicopters are not grounded but are, in fact, in full flight, according to National Security Minister Brig John Sandy.
Speaking at the VIP Lounge of the Piarco International Airport, Sandy refuted a Sunday Express report which stated that the AW 139 aircraft, which were commissioned by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and himself five months ago, were grounded and the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) was scrambling to put all requirements in place for the helicopters.
Reliable sources have told the Express that the aircraft were grounded, but Sandy said the report was erroneous and added that all requirements had been met and the helicopters were in air after receiving clearance by the TTCAA.
He said the latest flight of the aircraft took place on November 4.
Sandy also denied there was a lack of proper facilities to store the aircraft, a breach of contract with Augusta Westland.
Sandy said there is no requirement for the aircraft hangar to be air-conditioned, as the report stated.
Sandy said the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard has trained a required number of pilots, technicians and crew who are now equipped to operate and fly the helicopters.
Sandy said all the requisite approvals and certification have been acquired and the Air Guard technicians worked alongside Augusta Westland, as per the contract.
He added that all flight manuals and aircraft specific maintenance manuals have been approved by the TTCAA and are being used by the Air Guard at present.
“There has been no negligence on behalf of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago since all the necessary certificates have been achieved,” said Sandy.
He said it was also false that the aircraft could not travel in air for long periods without refuelling.
In the Sunday Express report, public affairs officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Captain Al Alexander was quoted as saying work was proceeding at a feverish pace to get things in place.
Sandy said Alexander had denied saying this.