Air Operations Unit
The RCIPS Air Operations Unit (AOU) was formed in March 2010 at the time of the arrival of the EC135 T1 advanced police helicopter on Grand Cayman. Since then the aerial support provided by the AOU has profoundly strengthened the islands’ border security and police operations. The helicopter has also been used on several occasions in an air ambulance capacity for urgent medical transfers from the Sister Islands to Grand Cayman, critically assisting patients in life-threatening circumstances with quick access to advanced medical care.
The AOU now consists of eight members: a unit executive officer, a sergeant, three police constables, one auxiliary constable, one chief pilot and one line pilot. All members of the AOU have been trained to required standards under the CAA CI Police Air Operations Certificate, including the police officers who are certified tactical flight officers (TFOs). The current contingent includes two new Caymanian officers who obtained their TFO certification in October 2017, bringing the Unit to full staffing and allowing for two crews and operational capacity seven days a week. All members of the AOU are rigorously and continuously tested to ensure they meet the requirements to operate the police helicopter to the highest possible safety standards.
The Airbus (Eurocopter) EC135 advanced police helicopter is equipped with a FLIR Ultraforce stabilized camera system, incorporating broadcast quality day and low-light camera, alongside a FLIR thermal image camera for day or night use, SX7 StarSun light for ground illumination, 700 watt Skyshout public address system, and video microwave downlinking. The aircraft also carries life buoys, life rafts and other equipment for sea rescue, and medical equipment with a foldable stretcher for casualty evacuation in critical situations.
Typically the AOU undertakes such tasks as offender, person, vessel or vehicle pursuits or searches, scene containment, area observation and incident response. It works closely with all specialist units, and in particular with the Joint Marine Unit, Tactical Firearms Unit, CID and Drugs and Serious Crime Task Force. The AOU also regularly provides aerial support to other law enforcement agencies, such as Her Majesty’s Prison Northward and the Cayman Islands Customs Agency, often in the framework of joint law enforcement operations. When on patrol, the AOU also assists DOE enforcement officers in marine conservation monitoring and offender detection.
In September 2017 the AOU deployed to Turks and Caicos just hours after Hurricane Irma passed, and was the only outside assistance to the territory for the first 36 hours. Over six days the helicopter carried out 44 flights of 26 flight hours, conducting damage and security assessments, and providing aid and welfare checks on all islands. This was the first deployment of the police helicopter and crew to another jurisdiction in such an extensive security and humanitarian capacity, and was deeply appreciated by both TCI officials and residents.
Since its addition to the RCIPS, the AOU has greatly enhanced the scope and quality of the operational work of the Service, fortifying the brave and skilled response of police officers on land and water with critical perspective and support from above.