Air One

RCMP Air One

RCMP Air One

 

Air One, a police helicopter manned by the RCMP, went into service in July 2006.  Since then, Air One has assisted police agencies from across the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley with hundreds of files.  The helicopter’s staff includes the pilot and a tactical flight officer (TFO).  While the pilot keeps the bird in the air, the tactical flight officer operates the police radio, search light and video recording equipment.  Everything from serious assaults to vehicle pursuits have been captured on the helicopter’s video, and the officers in the air provide valuable cover for the officers on the ground.

One major benefit is how effective Air One is at following crime vehicles.  When Air One aquires a visual on a fleeing suspect vehicle, ground units are able to back off and follow from a distance.  Usually, the suspects do not realize they are being followed from 1500 feet in the air, and the TFO can direct grounds units in for the arrest when the vehicle comes to a stop. 

One such case occurred on January 2, 2009.  The Delta Police Department (a municipality just south of Vancouver) responded to a robbery involving a knife.  The suspects fled in a vehicle, but were soon spotted by alert ground officers.  Air One was called in to assist, and took over the ‘aerial pursuit’, following the suspect vehicle as it fled through several jurisdictions.  The vehicle eventually came to a stop, where the two passengers were taken into custody.  The female suspect driver made the decision to try and make a run for it, but she was apprehended by a police dog after a brief foot pursuit.  The full story and video footage can be viewed on the RCMP in BC website – Air 1 Video of Armed Robbery Suspects.  The video, shot with the assistance of the FLIR camera (Forward Looking InfraRed camera), is well worth viewing – it is a perfect example of different police agencies working together. 

Most of the dog handlers with the Vancouver Police Department have worked files with Air One, and I can tell you from personal experience there is nothing quite like tracking a fleeing suspect and having the sound of the police helicopter in the air above you.   

Below is video footage shot from a police helicopter in Garland, Texas.  In it, you see ground officers conducting what they call a felony stop (we call it a Code 5 vehicle stop – used when occupants of the suspect vehicle are believed to be armed and dangerous.)  When the driver of the suspect runs from the vehicle, the helicopter camera switches to the FLIR mode, and captures another beautiful K9 apprehension.

 

I’ve been asked why the Vancouver Police Department does not have its own police helicopter, and the answer is because of the cost.  At the moment, Air One is a shared venture by various police agencies across BC.

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