Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has revealed that Maldivian pilots will be trained to fly and operate helicopters.
MNDF's statement comes amid criticism for allowing Indian military personnel to operate the two helicopters gifted by the Indian government. The defence minister had recently stated that the Maldives does not have the financial capacity to operate the helicopters without assistance.
Speaking to AVAS, the Chief Spokesperson of MNDF Major Ibrahim Azim said training opportunities have been offered by neighbouring India as well as other foreign nations.
Acknowledging several challenges faced in training helicopter pilots, Major Azim said MNDF has on several occasions made announcements seeking officers for helicopter pilot training, however, no officers who meet the required criteria had applied for the trainings.
"Those who have A level passes, and meet the criteria [for applying for these trainings] do not apply. Moreover, those holding Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) are more interested in working for other companies due to attractive salaries and remunerations," said Major Azim.
Azim revealed that MNDF already has three officers holding CPL, and that they require special training to become helicopter pilots. The preparations to arrange this are now underway, he said.
"We are making arrangements such that helicopter training is included as part of CPL training. We will begin training the pilots sometime this year," assured Azim.
The Indian government gifted two helicopters to the Maldives in 2010 under a mutual agreement. While one helicopter is stationed at the southernmost Addu, the second helicopter is kept at L. Gan. Both choppers are operated by Indian military personnel, a fact due to which the opposition continues to reprimand the administration.
Speaking recently on a local TV channel, Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi had stated that the country suffers no loss due to the helicopters gifted to the archipelago by neighbouring India, and that it only reaps benefits. While the helicopters are used to locate missing people and transport patients, it contributes to human services, said the minister. However, the financial circumstances of the country and the unavailability of certain resources do not allow for the state to operate the helicopters on its own, said Minister Mariya. Her statement also received heavy criticism from the public.