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Jun 30, 2017

4 Pilots Train to Fly Huey ‘Copters for B.D.F.

An auspicious ceremony was held at the Belize Defense Force headquarters in Ladyville.  Four pilots completed a Helicopter Conversion Training Course to fly the Taiwanese-gifted Hueys thus transitioning from the old defender aircrafts to fixed-wing to rotary aircrafts. It was a proud moment for the force as well as Commander David Jones who is looking at retirement. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A generous donation from the Taiwanese government a little over a year ago, has created an opportunity for men and women in the Belize Defense Force, those that are keen on aviation, to learn how to pilot and repair the only two helicopters in the B.D.F.’s fleet of aircrafts.  For seventeen officers who form part of the Air Wing unit, acquiring the necessary skills to fly and maintain these twin Hueys have come with a hefty price tag for the Government of Belize.  Nonetheless, it is money well spent, as the recently concluded training will help in bolstering the B.D.F.’s aerial capabilities.

 

Radford Baizar

Capt. Radford Baizar, Pilot in Command/Instructor

“For the aviation community, pilots would understand that the dynamics of helicopter flying is different from fixed-wing flying and we entered this training as fixed-wing pilots.  I have done some training in Jamaica prior to this training; however, we did not complete gaining the status of pilot in command.  So with this conversion training that was the objective, to gain the pilot in command status and the contract also afforded for an instructor pilot as well.”

 

Not only has Captain Radford Baizar learned how to fly a rotary aircraft, he is also qualified as an instructor and can now teach his colleagues how to pilot the choppers.

 

Capt. Radford Baizar

“I’m qualified from both seats.  The helicopter is flown from the right seat so each pilot actually got the proficiency level to fly the aircraft from the right seat.  When that was concluded, we went through a selection process.  I was selected to continue training from the left seat because the left seat primarily is the instructor’s seat and that’s where you give instructions to pilots that are converting on the right seat.  So yes, my training was a little bit more than the rest.  I got to have a little bit more fun than the other guys.”

 

The Helicopter Conversion Training Course 1601, as the curriculum is formally known, succeeded the gifting of the assets.  Brigadier General David Jones is quite pleased and satisfied that the B.D.F. was able to transition from the old Defender aircraft to the Hueys.  The small expansion in airpower will go a long way.

 

David Jones

Brig. Gen. David Jones, B.D.F. Commander

“This is a very proud moment for me.  Being able to acquire these assets, have our pilots train, have our engineers train to be able to operate these platforms, as the Commander of the Belize Defense Force it’s a transformational activity that has happened for the B.D.F. and I am very proud to be the commander of the B.D.F. at this time and it’s an important legacy [that] perhaps I can leave behind, that I was the commander at the time when we transformed from fixed-wing to rotary aircrafts.  We have four pilots fully trained to fly these UH1H and we have thirteen mechanics fully trained to repair and maintain these platforms because they’re pretty expensive but they’ve had the necessary training to do the necessary repair works on them.”

 

The course comes with a seven figure price tag which the Government of Belize has covered.

 

Brig. Gen. David Jones

“The funding to pay for the training actually came from the Government of Belize.  It was the honorable prime minister who found the funding for us and it was a bit around three million Belize dollars to pay for the training for the pilots and to pay for the mechanics.  Parts that were provided during the training were also provided by funding through the B.D.F. and also assistance from the assistance of the Government of Taiwan who has parts for these helicopters, who we continue to lean on and we will lean on them in the future because they have decided and agreed to provide us with parts for these helicopters whenever we need them and we have them.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Now the Air Wing is a relatively small group within that group who may be interested in moving up to become pilots and technicians?”

 

Brig. Gen. David Jones

“Well it’s a great opportunity, especially for the pilots, the officers who want to become pilots or for the non-commissioned officers who want to be engineers.  The ones that are within the unit have the first preference, but it opens up the gate now, and a bigger gate for the rest of the members of the force because now that the soldiers can see what is going to be beneficial and the additional capability that the B.D.F. has, I am sure now that a number of officers and soldiers will now want to come to the Air Wing.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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