I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 34 and 56 together.
The service commitment scheme was introduced in 1997 for pilot officers of the Air Corps. From the outset the scheme applied primarily to experienced personnel who are currently rated on and flying the Gulfstream IV, Beechcraft, CASA and Dauphin aircraft which are the principal operational aircraft in the Air Corps. The scheme, the conditions of which were not changed as suggested by the Deputy, was introduced with a view to retaining senior pilots who occupy key appointments in areas such as search and rescue, maritime surveillance and ministerial air transport. The gratuities are designed to strike a balance between the demand of the commercial environment and the need to exercise responsibility in relation to public service pay. Such financial incentives are not uncommon in Defence Forces in other countries where similar difficulties exist in retaining qualified personnel.
I am satisfied that the incentive scheme has helped to stabilise the drain of pilots from the Air Corps. A total of 14 pilots have opted to participate in the service commitment scheme and it is likely that a number of pilots who will become eligible for participation in the scheme later this year will also opt to participate.