Vanuatu helicopters fleet to be airborne soon
By Charles Hakwa
With the nation’s borders closed due to COVID-19, a few essential services are going through difficult times because of the decision. One of this is Vanuatu Helicopters.
The helicopters of this company have been used numerous times to medivac people requiring immediate medical attention but the moment the helicopters have been grounded as they require scheduled maintenance and Vanuatu does not currently have any aircraft engineers who are qualified to do helicopter maintenance.
Ground and Flight Operations Manager of Vanuatu Helicopters, Andy Martin says due to the closed borders they have not been able to bring in engineers to run maintenance on their helicopters.
The helicopter pilot says the grounding of the aircrafts have caused a hindrance on providing essential services such as medivac flights and he mentioned the fisherman who went missing on the east coast of Erromango.
Mr Martin says he was contacted by the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and the Police Maritime Wing to assist in the search, however he cannot help as his fleet has been grounded, needing maintenance which can only be done if engineers are allowed into the country.
After several attempts by Mr Martin to arrange for the arrival of the engineers with the COVID-19 task force, Director of Public Health and spokesperson of COVID-19 matters, Len Tarivonda, says the engineers can come in during the upcoming second phase of repatriation and all flights will be done by Air Vanuatu.
Dr Tarivonda says the engineers must include in the lists of people scheduled to travel to Vanuatu which are currently being compiled by Vanuatu’s high commissions abroad.
They will have to pay for their own flights and possibly their own quarantine costs.
He says all repatriation flights in phase 2 will align with Air Vanuatu’s scheduled weekly flights to Auckland and other ports in the region, however Air Vanuatu is yet to provide this to NDMO and the Ministry of Health.
Dr Tarivonda also says all inbound travelers and returnees are obliged to undergo the 14-day mandatory quarantine period in designated government approved quarantine facilities and Vanuatu Helicopters would have to pay for the quarantine costs.
He mentions NDMO will issue a new regulation order soon to completely remove all previous requirements to disinfect and quarantine inbound cargo at the ports of entry.
Vanuatu Helicopters operates a Robbinson R44 Clipper II and a Robbinson R66.