Ignacio Lillo / Iván Gelibter
Tuesday, 10 October 2023, 14:16
Malaga is still without its Directorate-General for Traffic helicopter which is used to monitor the roads and catch out some of the worst offending drivers in the province. The aircraft has been out of action after it crashed into a tree in August when the pilot was taking lunch at a restaurant in Andalucía's Almeria province.
The DGT helicopter, based at the Malaga traffic management centre, was on its way to perform surveillance and control duties at a music festival Dreambeach Villaricos in Cuevas del Almanzora when it suffered the accident at the Cortijo Blanco in La Mojonera on Friday 11 August.
The helicopter clipped the tree after it kicked up a large dust cloud. The pilot sustained minor injuries in the accident.
It was the only aircraft of its type allocated to Malaga province and was equipped with a sophisticated aerial video surveillance system that was used to monitor the roads and catch offending drivers. A DGT spokesperson confirmed to SUR that there is currently no aircraft monitoring traffic in Malaga, and there is no date for a replacement to arrive.
The nearest aircraft, which would usually be the one at the Seville base, is also currently not operational as it is awaiting a mandatory overhaul, meaning the Andalucía region has no service of this kind at the moment. In the case of a major incident on the roads, a DGT helicopter would need to travel from Madrid, some 500km away.
Replaced by drones?
The news comes as various sources have told SUR that the lack of a DGT helicopter is affecting road safety on the Costa del Sol, where there is a high concentration of sports car and high-end vehicles and serious speeding offences are common. However, the DGT said it is now using two drones to make up for the helicopter's absence.
But do drones really replace helicopters? SUR put this question to several experts who said that it is difficult to catch the most serious offending drivers without a Pegasus-equipped helicopter.
"The drone has a short-range battery, the helicopter can cover a much bigger area and remain in the air longer," said a Guardia Civil officer. "In addition, the Pegasus equipment is able to see the number plate, and monitor the use of mobile phones and seat belts.... drones are no substitute for helicopters," he added.
What happens to the DGT helicopters?
After the incident involving the DGT helicopter based in Malaga, it would have been expected that the damaged one be repaired or replaced, but neither has happened.
The problem lies, according to sources, in the lack of a supply contract for spare parts. There is allegedly no option to order the parts directly from Eurocopter, which is also the issue keeping the aircraft in Seville grounded. Meanwhile, the Malaga aircraft is seriously damaged and will need to be repaired or replaced by another one "but there are no spare parts or contract for parts," sources said.
In addition to the lack of budget for maintenance, a trade union source pointed out more reasons: "Behind this there is a strategy to privatise the helicopter supply and maintenance service throughout Spain, a contract worth several million euros that now, with the lack of a national government, has been left in limbo".
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