National Security Operations Centre (NSOC) helicopter pilots performed a daring maneuver while trying to remove a decomposing body from the Aripo forest in Trinidad.
The video (below) which is being circulated across local social media pages, sparked quite a bit of attention, most of which was positive, but some raising questions as to why the maneuver was carried out in that manner.
It’s clear that the pilots in control displayed a lot of skill and dexterity to hover in such a tight space, but questions were raised as to why a more appropriate helicopter (and recovery procedure) could not be used for the exercise.
In the video, the NSOC MBB Bo 105CBS-2 chopper (generally used for reconnaissance purposes during police operations) took on the roll of an airlift aircraft during the recovery of Richard Baird’s body.
It is believed that Baird tumbled off a cliff during a hike last week Saturday afternoon, while he made his way with a group to the Hollis Waterfall in Aripo.
Typically, the country’s government could have employed the services of one of the National Helicopter Services Limited (NHSL) Sikorsky S-76 or Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard (TTAG) AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters, but recent cost cutting measures resulted in all four of the AW139s being grounded.
The government said it was unable to pay the $200 million contract required to keep the four birds flying.
Back in June of this year, Dr. Keith Rowley blamed poor economic conditions as one of the major contributing factors for the grounding.
“Today we took a decision at the level of the Cabinet that we are not in a position to pay $200 million to maintain our four Augusta helicopters for one year. We just can’t afford that and if we can’t afford it the helicopters will stay on the ground,” Dr Rowley said.
He further added that other national security helicopters would be used in place in the mean time to fill the void.
“We are not without helicopters. The National Helicopter Service is there and we must as why is the National Helicopter Service not playing a role? But we cannot continue paying 200 million for a foreign company to maintain the helicopters for 12 months. Clearly, at a time when we don’t have the money, we have to look at other alternatives,” he said.
However, today’s exercise proves that the remaining fleet may not be quite as capable as he thought.
Questions are also be raised as to why the pilots hovered in such a confined space. Should the helicopter have lost its balance, the blades could have struck a tree or the ground, resulting in further potential injuries or even death.
The TTAG’s 4 AW139s were initially purchased for search and rescue, surface surveillance, law enforcement, drug interdiction and disaster relief operations.