RCIPS Auxiliary Constable Darren McLean has officially completed his secondment at National Helicopter Services Ltd (NHSL) in Trinidad & Tobago and is now qualified as a single-pilot captain, a major milestone in his progress to become the first Caymanian helicopter pilot in the RCIPS Air Operations Unit (AOU).
Although he faced difficulties, Darren's time with National Helicopters has undoubtedly been a success.
"I am confident that Darren was exposed to as wide a variety of conditions that our type of operation would allow, and he performed admirably," says General Manager of NHSL, Captain Homer Solomon. "I am certain that his experience here with us has placed him on a solid footing for the next phase of his development."
During his secondment, Darren accrued over 1,000 hours twin turbine flight time, and completed over 3,000 takeoffs and landings. Many of these takeoffs and landings were done on oil rigs, which often present particularly challenging conditions. The types of missions he flew ranged from simple personnel transports to more urgent medevacs.
"The operations that meant the most to me were always the ones where I was able to help save someone's life," says Darren. "At various times we were responsible for transporting victims of motor-vehicle collisions, persons with gunshot wounds, and even premature babies. It is a different experience flying with someone's life on the line, and I was grateful to be able to help people in this way."
While gaining this experience flying for NHSL as part of a two-pilot crew, Darren has had the opportunity to fly with and learn from other experienced pilots, and benefitted from the lessons they were able to impart, and the support they offered while flying operations together. Now Darren is moving on to the next stage, and will spend the next year flying operations as a single-pilot captain for Helicentre Aviation in the UK. This means that, when it comes to anything relating to the flying itself, he will be solely responsible for making all the decisions when conducting operations.
"During my time at NHSL Captain Solomon always told me that my goal should be to take the best of all the pilots I fly with," says Darren, "and so I will be taking the lessons I learned from them into this new experience."
In addition to allowing Darren to gain the necessary single-pilot captain hours to qualify to pilot for the RCIPS AOU, this secondment will also allow him to gain experience flying in different weather conditions, over different terrain, and in a much busier airspace. All of this will serve him well when he returns to Cayman to take up his post as AOU helicopter pilot.
"We are very pleased that Darren has reached this milestone and look forward to his continued progress in the UK over the coming year," says head of the RCIPS AOU, Inspector Neil Mohammed. "We know it has been a long journey for him, but he has never wavered or given less than 100%, and his hard work will continue to pay off. We are also grateful to our partners in National Helicopter Services Ltd for working with us to help develop this unprecedented program, and look forward to continuing to build our relationship with them."
"It was a pleasure working alongside the RCIPS in what was in so many ways a groundbreaking initiative," says Captain Solomon. "While a lot of planning went into it, Darren's attitude and aptitude also made the process easier, as he was always willing to adapt to whatever challenges came his way."
"The future is very bright for Darren as he begins this next step," says Commissioner of Police Derek Byrne, who also presented Darren with his pilot's wings in recognition of his successes thus far. "He is not only on the verge of being our first Caymanian police helicopter pilot, he is also serving as an example for other Caymanians who may one day follow in his footsteps.
"Once again, we thank our partners in National Helicopter Services Ltd for working with us on this initiative, and the Cayman Islands Government for their continued support."
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