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.
|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.|
The aircraft of the NZP ASU are fully operational.
No plans known.
No special markings or service titles are displayed.
Aircraft Serial Numbers
Aircraft operating for the New Zealand Police have an exemption to carry ‘Police
Coding system not used.
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|
Aircraft NOT Used
No false reports known.
Aircraft Losses and Incidents
See narrative above.
New Zealand Police, 180 Molesworth Street, Wellington, PO Box 3017.
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
All-Time Flying Units List
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
To be added
Police Eagle Unit receives international recognition
111 Emergency: Police Air and Sea
Air support ‘Eagle’ unit
NZ Civil Aircraft: Police 2
NZ Civil Aircraft: Cessna 172