WA Police Air Wing helicopters temporary grounding ends

VH-WPX / POLAIR 62 Eurocopter AS365N3+ Dauphin 2 (MSN 6936, ex F-WWOX) of WA Police Air Wing at Jandakot Airport – Fri 28 November 2014. Delivered in September 2011, entered service at the end of May 2012. Fitted with various systems, including communications, sensors, a forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) camera, Tasking and Dispatch Information Systems (TADIS), special lighting, and a rescue winch. Photo © David Eyre
VH-WPX / POLAIR 62 Eurocopter AS365N3+ Dauphin 2 (MSN 6936, ex F-WWOX) of WA Police Air Wing at Jandakot Airport – Fri 28 November 2014.
Delivered in September 2011, entered service at the end of May 2012. Fitted with various systems, including communications, sensors, a forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) camera, Tasking and Dispatch Information Systems (TADIS), special lighting, and a rescue winch.
Photo © David Eyre
VH-WAH MBB-Kawasaki BK117B-2 (MSN 1051) of the WA Police Air Wing, named “Malcolm D Stornoway II”, over Lake Melville - Sat 3 May 2014. Photo © Matt Hayes
VH-WAH MBB-Kawasaki BK117B-2 (MSN 1051) of the WA Police Air Wing, named “Malcolm D Stornoway II”, over Lake Melville – Sat 3 May 2014.
Callsign “POLAIR 61″. Based at Jandakot. Used for police patrol, high-speed pursuits, surveillance, search and rescue and officer deployment. Fitted with a Star Safire III FLIR unit with downlink capabilities, Avalex digital recorder, Avalex moving map system, 4 monitors, Wulfsberg tactical radio, Nitesun search light and double lift 600lb rescue winch. Built in 1990, ex JA6607.
Photo © Matt Hayes

4 January 2014 (UPDATED: 6 January 2014)

WA’s two police helicopters (VH-WAH / POLAIR 61 MBB-Kawasaki BK-117 and VH-WPX / POLAIR 62 Eurocopter AS365N3+ Dauphin 2), which were grounded since 3 January 2015,  have now returned to flying.

The Police Air Wing’s Chief Pilot and Deputy Chief Pilot suddenly resigned, and this also left only two of the five pilot positions filled. As the Police Air Wing Air Operator’s Certificate was held by the Chief Pilot, his resignation potentially meant that under air safety laws, the helicopters could not fly. The helicopters were therefore voluntarily grounded to clarify the situation with CASA, but could do urgent missions if required.

WA Police held urgent discussions with CASA on finding a way to get the helicopters back into operation, and CASA granted approval for the helicopters to fly under a private licence which covers them for surveillance operations.

If the grounding had been for an extended period, fixed wing aircraft, such as the GippsAero GA-8 Airvan (VH-WPF) would have been needed to provide air patrols and support for ground-based Police. The Airvan is not a well-equipped as the helicopters and does not have a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret for night searches. However, WA Police indicated that they already do this whenever the helicopters are unavailable and if necessary, they would hire another helicopter.

Rescue flights are not a primary function of the Police helicopters, so rescue missions could be undertaken by other helicopters, such as the Department of Fire and Emergency Services/RAC Rescue Bell 412EP VH-EWA.

The WA Police admitted that they have had difficulty trying to find suitably-qualified helicopter pilots, with one position vacant for some time, but deny that there are any staff problems within the Air Wing.

David Eyre

President, Aviation Association of WA Inc

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *