JDF opens military aviation school in Kingston
Security Minister Peter Philips inspects one of the planes that will be used to train pilots at the Jamaica Military Aviation School, which was opened on Thursday. (Photo: Karl McLarty)
THE Jamaica Defence Force Thursday evening launched its own training facility for pilots, the Jamaica Military Aviation School, located at premises close to the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.
Security Minister Dr Peter Phillips, who gave the keynote address at the opening, said the new aviation school not only meant that Jamaicans would no longer have to go to Canada to train, but that this was also an enhancement of the country's counter-narcotics capabilities.
"They (JDF) do not only do counter-narcotic operations; they do their operations in support of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. They are a vital element in our disaster response capabilities. and are central for maintaining surveillance of our coast line," said Phillips.
The school, a joint effort between the Jamaican and Canadian governments, will be equipped with two trainer aeroplanes, one of which has already been delivered. An additional five aircraft will also be purchased.
Captain Byran Creary, commandant-designate for the aviation school, said the facility will be able to accommodate 20 students, including officers from the Caribbean. The students will be trained to operate helicopter and multi-engine aircraft, he said.
Meanwhile, Charlie Bouchard, commander of the One Canadian Air Division, with responsibility of overseeing all aviation training in Canada, said the opening of the military aviation school in Kingston signalled a new chapter in the relationship between the Jamaican and Canadian forces. To date, 109 pilots and aircraft technicians have benefited from Canadian training over the past 35 years.
"As good allies we will continue to support each other in the delivery of this training," he said. "On a yearly basis we will come back here and we will visit the organisation, talk with the various instructors and provide some feedback as to the conduct of training, because we believe that we have good and strong standards in the Canadian forces and those standards have been met by the JDF and we will make sure that that standard remains," said Commander Bouchard. The instructors were trained in Canada, added the commander.
"We have just completed the training of two officers, one from the JDF and one from the Belize force. The training was conducted in Belize with some of our trainers," he said, adding that a JDF captain had also completed instructor training in preparation for the aviation school.
Meantime, Canadian High Commissioner Denis Kingsley said the aviation training school would ensure that there were greater opportunities for more pilots both from Jamaica as well as elsewhere in the Caribbean. Jamaica, he added, has been the linchpin for stability and security in the wider region.
"This new centre of excellence for military aviation will increase Jamaica's contribution to regional and international security by providing an affordable and strategically located training centre for cadets from around the Caribbean," said the high commissioner.