COSTA RICA NEWS (By , Dialogo-Americas) — The Costa Rican Aerial Surveillance Service (SVA) has an important new tool in its fight against drug trafficking and other criminal enterprises: A Piper Seneca III Flight Simulator that pilots can use for training.

The United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) delivered the donated flight simulator, worth about US$305,000, to SVA headquarters, the Ministry of Public Security announced October 15.

Flight simulator: A pilot trains on a sophisticated flight simulator. Costa Rican Aerial Surveillance Service (SVA) pilots will train with this type of flight simulator, which was donated by SOUTHCOM.    [Ministry of Public Security of Costa Rica]
Flight simulator: A pilot trains on a sophisticated flight simulator. Costa Rican Aerial Surveillance Service (SVA) pilots will train with this type of flight simulator, which was donated by SOUTHCOM. [Ministry of Public Security of Costa Rica]
“I want to thank our friends in the United States government for being our partners in this initiative,” said Minister of Public Security Celso Gamboa Sánchez. “This is the best flight simulator currently in Costa Rica and it makes the Ministry of Public Security a technological leader.”

Flight simulator an important training tool

SVA pilots conduct surveillance flights to monitor organized crime groups and common criminals, and also fly humanitarian missions to help the civilian population during natural disasters.

The Piper Seneca III will allow the SVA’s 30 pilots to maintain and sharpen their skills on a daily basis. It’s the first simulator for SVA police pilots, featuring a replica of an actual aircraft cabin and equipped with sophisticated technology that simulates real-life scenarios. The simulator will allow them to hone their professional skills and abilities without risking planes in an actual fight and without expending fuel or polluting the environment.

The device will help pilots train to perform difficult maneuvers, such as landing in remote rural areas where there is no airport or landing strip. And flight hours in the simulator will be recognized for pilot certifications.

“This simulator was a real necessity,” said Paul Chávez, a security analyst at the Latin University of Costa Rica.

Cooperation includes training

In addition to donating the device, USSOUTHCOM trained SVA technical personnel how to maintain it.

That task falls to SVA’s aircraft maintenance department, which is comprised of 11 technical mechanics who are responsible for certifying the safety of SVA aircraft – including some which were seized from drug traffickers.

The equipment is located in the facilities of the aerial section of the Department of Public Security at Juan Santamaría International Airport (AIJS), in Alajuela.

SVA plays a key role in providing security for Costa Rica

Costa Rica does not have a military force, so the SVA plays a key role in ensuring the country’s public safety. It serves as the airborne branch of the country’s police force, and is responsible for ensuring public order, the safety and integrity of Costa Rican air space, surveillance, transporting public officials domestically and internationally, and responding to public emergencies, such as natural disasters.

The SVA fleet is comprised of 17 aircraft, including 14 fixed-wing planes and 3 helicopters. Its fleet was entirely donated by other countries or confiscated from drug traffickers. Each seized aircraft is worth between $15 million and $30 million (USD).

The flight simulator joins the array of sophisticated technology, such as radar systems, that the SVA uses to conduct maritime patrols — often in cooperation with U.S. security forces.

The United States and Costa Rica cooperate in the fight against transnational criminal enterprises, primarily by sharing information and resources.

For example, Costa Rica currently receives aid from the U.S. government through various programs. From 2009 to September 11, Costa Rica received more than $25 million (USD) in assistance to support border security, judicial processes, and safe communities.

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