Military flight school launched
Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer
AFTER 35 years of being trained by the Canadian Air Force, Jamaica's pilots now have the opportunity to earn their wings locally at the Jamaica Military Aviation School (JMAS).
Located at the Jamaica Defence Force's (JDF) air wing at the Norman Manley International Airport, the JMAS was launched Thursday by Minister of National Security Dr. Peter Phillips and Denis Kingsley, the Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica.
Senior members of the JDF and Canadian Air Force also attended the function. The Canadians donated computers and a DA40 Diamond Star plane to the school which costs Can$700,000 to build.
The school officially gets off the ground in February with six pilots (five from Jamaica, one from Belize) on base. The first course, Primary Flying Training, entails basic flying skills on a single-engine fixed wing trainer and covers 30 flying hours.
Captain Brian Creary, commandant at the JMAS, told The Gleaner that administrators hope to have 20 students from across the Caribbean in training by late 2007.
Captain Creary recently completed a three-year exchange programme with the Canadian Air Force at its Portage la Prairie in the province of Manitoba.
Lieutenant Geoffrey Roper, who heads the JDF's air wing, said the school breaks new ground for the division.
"This means that we can now provide a sustainable air wing with pilots that we train locally, and we don't have to depend on other people for that sustainability," he said.
The training between the Canadian and Jamaica air wings started in 1971 at Portage la Prairie, through funding from Canada's Military Training Assistance Programme . More than 100 Jamaicans have been trained at that facility.
Dr. Phillips noted that the launch of the JMAS does not mean the end of Canada's involvement with the JDF. He said a team from the Canadian Air Force will conduct annual evaluation tests at the JMAS.