The new Airbus H125 helicopter is the same make and model as AIR-1, the EPS’s other helicopter, and will replace an EC120 model that is no longer being manufactured. A fleet consisting of the same aircraft type allows for efficiencies in training and maintenance, as the aircrew do not need to be trained on two different helicopters. The H125 is also able to carry more fuel, allowing for increased flight time, which allows the aircrew to respond and assist when they are needed the most, and work calls to their conclusion. The H125 model is expected to last a minimum of 20 years in a policing environment.
“AIR-1 and AIR-2, our two helicopters, play an integral role in ensuring citizen and officer safety,” says S/Sgt Paul Shafer, with the EPS Canine and Flight Operations Section. “They allow us to monitor fleeing vehicles from a safe distance, locate missing persons, find suspects who may be trying to evade police, and assist officers on the ground with scene surveillance.”
The EPS helicopters attend over 3,000 calls per year and have a 98% driver apprehension rate with respect to fleeing vehicles (known as criminal flights) in cases where they have managed the event to conclusion. Since the inception of the EPS Flight Operations program in 2001, the helicopters have safely managed over 1,500 criminal flights, which would have otherwise posed significant risk to public safety. When airborne, AIR-1 and 2 have an average response time of 60 seconds.
The originally projected $6.2 million cost of AIR-2 was approved in 2019 as part of a planned fleet replacement to address operational inefficiencies with the existing aircraft. The new AIR-2 was paid for with a loan from the City of Edmonton to the EPS that will be repaid through efficiencies in the EPS operating budget. The final purchase price is projected to come in approximately $250,000 under budget for a total of $5.95 million.
The EPS received the helicopter from the manufacturer Airbus Helicopters earlier in 2020. Eagle Copters Ltd., based in Calgary, has just completed the installation of the mission-specific equipment, including a high definition infrared camera, search light, mapping system, microwave downlink and police radios. The new AIR-2 is expected to be in service before the end of November.
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