New Zealand Police

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

The New Zealand Police in Auckland launched air support trials with a leased Bell 206 JetRanger in November 1988, following a series of bank robberies. The trials were very successful, but the single-engined helicopter type was deemed unsuitable for the job. In March (July?) 1989 a twin-engined Aerospatiale AS355 was placed on permanent lease, and the ‘Eagle’ Air Support Unit formally established. A second AS355 was obtained in 1991.

At around the same time, the Police began covert operations for aerial spotting of marijuana plantations. This was done using leased aircraft and helicopters on contract from Airwork and Scott Aviation, and also with police-owned Cessna light aircraft with false registrations. These operations have incurred at least two fatal accidents, a mid-air colision in 1993, and a fatal crash in 2005.

The Police now operate a Cessna 172 and a Hughes 500D in plain markings, but with POLICE registrations, in connection with these drug-growing searches.

Key Dates

November 1988 Start of a trial operation in Auckland using a leased Bell 206 helicopter.
March 1989 Dedicated AS355 enters service with Auckland unit.
July 1991 Second AS355 enters service with Auckland unit.
26 November 1993 Fatal mid-air collision involving aircraft leased by the Police.

Current Status

The aircraft of the NZP ASU are fully operational.

Future Plans

No plans known.


Markings

National Insignia

No special markings or service titles are displayed.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

Aircraft operating for the New Zealand Police have an exemption to carry ‘Police ‘ markings instead of a conventional registration, e.g. AS355 POLICE 1. Known registrations are POLICE 1, 2, 3 and 5. It is not known if there was actually a POLICE 4.

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used.


Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used

Current Aircraft Inventory

Aircraft Type Total Del’d Total Active Still on Order Role
Aerospatiale AS 355F1 Twin Squirrel 2 2 0 Policing
Cessna 172 1 1 0 Anti-drug Patrol
Hughes 500D 1 1 0 Anti-drug Patrol

All-Time Aircraft Used List

Aircraft Type Quantity Service Entry Out of Service Origin
Aerospatiale AS 355F1 Twin Squirrel 2 1989 current France
Bell 206B JetRanger 2 1988 1991 USA
Cessna 172 1 ? current USA
Hughes 500D 1 ? current USA

Aircraft NOT Used

No false reports known.

Aircraft Losses and Incidents

See narrative above.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

New Zealand Police, 180 Molesworth Street, Wellington, PO Box 3017.

Organisational Structure

New Zealand Police Air Support seems to constist of a very high profile ‘Eagle’ helicopter unit based in Auckland, and a very low profile marijuana spotting operation based elsewhere.

Current Unit Assignments

No subordinate units.

Historical Unit Assignments

Not applicable.

All-Time Flying Units List

Not applicable.

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

The AS355s of the ‘Eagle’ Air Support Unit are based at the Mechanics Bay heliport on the Auckland waterfront. The Hughes 500 has been seen at Rotorua, and the Cessna both at Hamilton and Rotorua.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

As above.


More Information

Books

None known.

Magazines

To be added

Websites

AB-IX
Police Eagle Unit receives international recognition
Airliners.net
111 Emergency: Police Air and Sea
Air support ‘Eagle’ unit
Cessna’R’Us
NZ Civil Aircraft: Police 2
NZ Civil Aircraft: Cessna 172
Police 3

Any photographs illustrating this operator would be welcome.