You are here
T&T Air support boss says: Aircraft in test flight not mine
Managing director of Trinidad and Tobago Air Support Co Ltd Dirk Barnes says he has the documents which he sent to the Civil Aviation Authority proving that his Zenith CH 750 Air Scout aircraft came into T&T only this month. Barnes said he knew nothing about the aircraft referred to in emails written last July and revealed in Parliament last Friday. Opposition MP Donna Cox read a letter written in September last year by Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs in which he stated that the National Security Ministry had awarded a $902,772 contract to Barnes’ Tacarigua firm for 720 hours use of the Zenith aircraft for a three-month evaluation. Her colleague, Diego North/East MP Colm Imbert, claimed the Zenith the Government acquired to replace the blimp is a “toy aeroplane” and is not adequate for air surveillance.\
Barnes told the T&T Guardian yesterday: “The aircraft being referred to is not my aircraft. “I have documents to prove that my Zenith aircraft was imported into the country on January 4 and was brought to the hanger on January 12,” he said. “Yesterday (Saturday), it was flown in T&T for the first time. “I have documents proving that I went to Civil Aviation requiring approval for the aircraft to operate. “I could trace when the aircraft was packed, loaded, landed here, reassembled and flown. “I have no idea what they are talking about concerning emails in July last year...I was not in that conversation.”
Barnes said his Zenith aircraft was not supposed to be a replacement for the blimp. He said when he submitted his proposal it was to assist local law enforcement agencies with direct command and control of ground forces to enable faster response. Asked how he got the contract, Barnes said he resigned as a major from the army last year to pursue his dream of lifting aviation in T&T. He said he did research, saw how the Zenith was being used in other countries and decided to put together a proposal for the National Security Ministry. “I contacted the office of the Commissioner of Police and was told Deputy Commissioner Jack Ewatski would have to hear the presentation. “Ewatski thought it was something that could be used in T&T,” he said
Asked about tendering procedures, Barnes said this was the first time an ultra light sports aircraft was being used in T&T and he was not aware that any other aviation company in the country had this model in its inventory. Barnes said the Zenith fell under the category of light sport aircraft in the United. He said the parts were bought from Zen Air Ltd in Canada which built aircraft, then sent to a build centre in Tampa, Florida, for assembling. He said the aircraft, designed by Chris Heintz, father of the owners of Zen Air Ltd, could fly upwards of four hours at a time.
He said because of its unique wing structure, it could perform tight 180-degree turns and could loiter over a particular area for an extended length of time.
He rejected the notion that only an aircraft that can hover was capable of air surveillance. “What is needed for proper air surveillance is the camera equipment you put in it...The Zenith has been equipped with that,” he said. A 37-year-old father of one, Barnes said he took loans and bought the aircraft and put his personal money into it. He is inviting anyone wishing to do so to audit his accounts.
PNM MPs respond
Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert said it was clear to him, based on the emails, letter and contract from Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs, that someone from the authorities of the Police Service went on a test flight sometime in the middle of last year. He said the test flight seemed to have been done on an aircraft similar to the one being leased by the Government and that, shortly after, a contract was executed between the authorities of the Police Service and the T&T Air Support Co Ltd. “As to who emailed who, I don’t know and I don’t want to get into the semantics,” he said. “I don’t know Eddie and I don’t know Danny.” Imbert said he had problems with the cost of the lease of the aircraft and the tendering procedures. He also said he did not know what the Zenith could do. Laventille East/Morvant MP Donna Cox said at no time in her presentation in Parliament did she say Barnes owned the aircraft she was referring to.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.