The NSW Police Force Aviation Command has celebrated 40-years in operation with a commemorative flight over Sydney Harbour in honour of the unit’s proud history serving from the sky to prevent crime and protect the community of NSW.
The Aviation Command commenced operations in 1979 at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport with the procurement of its first helicopter – a Bell 206B Jet Ranger III, with the call sign PolAir 1.
Following the success of the aircraft, the branch purchased two more state-of-the-art Jet Ranger helicopters just one year later, known as PolAir 2 and PolAir 3.
Today, PolAir continue to patrol from above with a fleet of five helicopters and three fixed-wing aircraft, travelling across the state from coast to country.
As the only airborne law enforcement unit in NSW, the branch provides specialist support to NSW Police officers on the ground for search and rescue operations, tactical operations, specialist transport, and regular patrols.
In the last year alone, PolAir has conducted 459 search and rescue operations, responded to 138 pursuits and located 232 missing people.
Police Transport and Public Safety Commander, Assistant Commissioner Karen Webb APM, said PolAir has gone from strength to strength over the years with the introduction of new aircraft and technology.
“We are fortunate here in New South Wales that our Aviation Command has been fitted with advanced technology to help our officers respond to, target, disrupt and prevent crime,” Assistant Commissioner Webb said.
“The PolAir fleet provides specialist support across the organisation, assisting during search and rescue missions, maintaining a bird’s eye view on criminals, and conducting major crime investigations.
“In the past 12 months alone, our team have arrived first on the scene when a police response was required 665 times – making the aircraft an invaluable resource in modern policing.
“While each of the aircraft have unique capabilities, they also serve a general purpose: providing a highly visible presence to detect and deter crime, and support safer communities,” Assistant Commissioner Webb said.
The unit is comprised of more than 70 staff, including police officers, special constables and civilians trained as pilots, tactical support crew members, and engineers.
Aviation Commander, Superintendent Matthew Appleton, said the branch has proudly served the community of NSW for four decades and will continue to do so into the future.
“PolAir cover a vast area of more than 800,000 square kilometres to provide support to our troops on the ground and during police operations – which has been our mission since inception,” Supt Appleton said.
“Our aviation fleet is now the largest fleet of police aircraft in Australia and we have plans to expand further in the future.
“Airborne law enforcement and aviation technology has already improved tenfold in the past 40 years, and as part of the organisation PolAir look forward to continue serving the community and facing new challenges in years to come,” Supt Appleton said.
In June 2019, a new aviation facility was announced with the assistance and funding of the NSW Government. The hangar, which will remain based at Bankstown Airport, will be purpose-built for the NSW Police Force Aviation Command, and is due to be completed by July 2020.
The total developed exceeds 25,000m2 and will include office space, an aircraft hangar, taxiways and a carpark.
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