The Eagle crew
Eagle normally operates with a crew of three - a civilian pilot, and two observers, both observers are sworn police officers. A crew of three allows the pilot to concentrate solely on flight safety, flying the aircraft while maintaining separation from other air traffic, while the observers concentrate on the action below.
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 persons of interest are still present at an incident, either on foot or in vehicles. Once the aircrew have visual contact with these people, or targets, they are able to manoeuvre the ground units into position to best deal with the incident, or make an arrest.
The Eagle base
The Air Support Unit based at the Mechanics Bay heliport on the Auckland waterfront has been in operation since 1988.
Originally flying a single engine Bell Jet ranger helicopter, the unit has been operating twin engine Aerospatiale AS355F1 aircraft since July 1989. When not engaged on a specific task or operation the aircraft is on immediate standby on the ground.
Eagle’s onboard equipment
The aircraft are equipped with gyro stabilised binoculars, which are used to counter the effects of vibration in the aircraft. Forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera, night vision equipment, and a night sun spotlight.
Eagle also has a comprehensive array of VHF and UHF radio equipment for communication with Air Traffic Control, Police, Fire and other agencies. For navigation the aircraft is fitted with global positioning system (GPS) equipment which is integrated into a mapping program.
Email the Air Support Unit using this Air Support - Eagle contact form.
Canterbury Eagle Trial
Police air support (Eagle) is being trialled from a base in Christchurch for five weeks, from 17 February to 20 March 2020.
Police wants to investigate whether there is the demand to expand the service outside Auckland. The five week trial will provide an overview of, and more information on the demand profile, for Canterbury and its surrounds.
Policing has changed significantly since the inception of the Auckland-based Air Support Unit Eagle in 1988. Police are keen to see what benefits Eagle could bring to an environment like Christchurch.
The public can give feedback on the trial by emailing Haveyoursay@police.govt.nz.