Tender hitch grounds choppers

2012-02-15 00:00

DELAYS in the awarding of maintenance tenders are partly responsible for the fact that as many as 15 police helicopters — two of them in KZN — remain grounded.

This causes endless frustration for pilots who cannot act on calls for assistance to fight crime.

The initial tenders were issued as early as the beginning of last year, but have still not been awarded.

National police spokesperson Brigadier Lindela Mashigo said this week that two helicopters in Gauteng, two in the Western Cape, one in the Eastern Cape, two in Kimberley, two in KwaZulu-Natal, one in Pretoria and one in the Free State are currently affected by “unscheduled maintenance”.

Scheduled maintenance is carried out after every 100 flying hours in terms of Civil Aviation regulations.

The pilots say that if problems that keep the aircraft grounded arise between services it takes them weeks to obtain financial authorisation to have repairs carried out.

If the tenders had already been awarded the maintenance would be the responsibility of the service providers and no authorisations would be necessary.

It is believed that 10 of the 13 BO-105 helicopters, as well as five of the 15 Squirrels and the only BK-117 were unserviceable at the end of November last year.

Moreover, some of the helicopters require serious repairs that cannot be done if the tenders are not awarded.

This is the first time that Armscor, which normally handles defence force procurements, is also handling police aircraft maintenance contracts. Armscor has referred all inquiries to the police.

According to Mashigo, the police decided on Armscor because it has proven experience in the handling of the air force’s aircraft maintenance and quality control.

After the initial specifications were determined for the tenders it was decided to group the tenders according to the make of the aircraft. Consequently seven different tenders were issued.

Mashigo said some of the tenders had not met the necessary critical criteria and would be reissued.

Armscor would award the others “shortly”.

The Witness’s sister newspaper Beeld has been told that will happen only at the end of March, to become effective in the new financial year.

Mashigo said the necessary spares for repairing the helicopters could be requested as soon as the tenders have been awarded.

Meanwhile, the police do have technicians that can carry out basic maintenance. According to Beeld’s information most of the technicians are stationed in and around Pretoria.

If a helicopter breaks down in a remote area there are no technicians on hand to repair it and private technicians have to be called in.

Then there are the delays to obtain financial authorisation for the “unscheduled” repairs.

Mashigo said the police had a channel for handling members’ complaints and said they should air their grievances internally rather than in public.

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