The Police Air Support Unit (ASU), better known as Eagle, officially opened its new base at Auckland Heliport in July. The ASU’s three new Bell 429 helicopters were also unveiled at the same time by Minister for Police, Stuart Nash and Commissioner Mike Bush.
The officers were excited about their new machines. They are not only packed full with the latest crime-fighting technology, but they are much quieter. They are also larger, and can carry more people; better for search and rescue missions than the 30 year-old AS355 helicopters they replaced.The new helicopters also have a much longer range than the older machines. This means fewer refuelling stops, and the ability to hover over incidents for longer. They can fly from Auckland to Wellington in just over two hours, without needing to refuel, so will also be able to respond faster to major incidents elsewhere.
The police helicopter service has moved to the Pikes Point heliport from Mechanics Bay on Tãmaki Drive, but the police say this should not affect the service they provide. The heliport is in the middle of a large industrial zone, so the noise of the helicopters should not be an issue, and they can fly in and out of the heliport at almost any time. The Manukau Harbour provides a safe and easy approach to the flight apron, and there is easy access from central Auckland. While the Eagle team is still adjusting to their new surroundings, they all agree that the new base will be better operationally for Eagle. Senior Constable Mark Jamieson says it combines “All our assets in one place.’
Eagle’s move to Auckland Heliport is a huge achievement for local company, Advanced Flight Ltd. (AFL) who have been at Pikes Point since 2011. AFL’s contract includes not just providing a base for Eagle, but all the maintenance and pilot training work as well. CEO Keith Stephens said when the tenders came out last year he was certain that “We’ve got the solution here, and it’s all in one place.”
(Inspector Scott Gemmell accepts a Police flag from Commissioner Mike Bush)