New Zealand Police Air Support "Eagle" Unit (Auckland)
The Air Support Unit (generally known as "Eagle") operates throughout the metropolitan Auckland area. When not engaged on a specific operation the aircraft is on immediate standby on the ground.
The Eagle crew
Eagle normally operates with a crew of three - a civilian pilot and an observer and navigator who are both sworn police officers. A crew of three allows the pilot to concentrate solely on flying the aircraft and maintaining separation from other air traffic, while the observer and navigator concentrate on the action below.
What Eagle is used for
The primary use of the aircraft is as an airborne observation platform. From their vantage point in the sky the crew are able to readily coordinate the operations of ground units. This is particularly valuable where police are chasing offenders, either on foot or in vehicles. Once the aircrew have visual contact with the fugitive they are able to direct ground units into position to make an arrest.
Eagle's infra-red system
At night, the forward looking infra red system (FLIR) gives the crew a heat picture of the ground below, showing up people and vehicles clearly despite the darkness, vegetation, etc. FLIR allows the helicopter crew to search large areas such as parks in a few minutes - a job that would take ground units hours to complete. The heat picture provided by FLIR also allows the crew to identify vehicles that have been recently driven by the heat emitted from the hot engine and wheels.
Once the aircrew have located an incident on the ground the Nightsun spotlight allows them to illuminate the whole area to assist