MNDF: Local pilots will soon operate helicopters

Photo shows one of the two helicopters donated by the Indian government to the Maldives in 2010. (Sun Photo/Mohamed Afrah)

Chief of Defense, Maj. Gen. Abdulla Shamaal has said that very soon local pilots will be operating helicopters and other military aircraft donated by foreign nations to the Maldives. 

Two helicopters donated by the Indian government is being operated to transport emergency patients, in addition to army purposes. 

The helicopters are being operated by Indian military personnel. This has led to criticism from opposition political parties, who said that the presence of Indian army personnel in the Maldives was a threat to the sovereignty of the nation. 

Despite the availability of local pilots, the helicopters being operated by Indian pilots has grown to be concern among the public. MNDF has previously said that the presence of Indian military personnel in the nation was not a threat to the country’s sovereignty. 

Maj. Gen. Shamaal said that the agreements pertaining to the use of the helicopters or any other aircraft stated the operation of the aircrafts would be by locals who are also to be trained for the purpose. However, there were difficulties in achieving this due to the lack of available local pilots trained for helicopters. 

“We have around six as helicopter pilots. However, they have obtained training from different academies worldwide for different aircraft. They have not undergone ratings for this (training for these helicopters) specifically.” Said Maj. Gen. Shamaal.

Maj. Gen. Shamaal said that the challenges were due to the demand for commercial pilots as there was a pay gap between commercial pilots and military pilots which the MNDF faced difficulties in matching.

“Around MVR 60,000-80,000 is earned by pilots. However, if we are to provide that amount to military officers working as pilots, pay for other areas will also need to be increased. They include lawyers, doctors, engineers as well as other technical figures who work in high numbers.” Said Shamaal.

Discussions were also underway with foreign individuals working as Dornier pilots and experts of the aircraft to work in collaboration with the military.

“This is as a shortcut to get local pilots inside the cockpit quickly. So, local pilots will soon fly these aircraft. Aircraft as in helicopters or other aircraft, we can assure that local pilots will be there.” Said the Chief of Defense. 

Around 50 Indian military personnel are in the Maldives to operate the two helicopters and for technical purposes. The helicopters were donated in 2010. One of the helicopters is based in Addu City, while the other is based in L. Gan.