The chief of the Winnipeg Police Service says the city does not need a second police helicopter, despite recent maintenance and staffing issues that have cut the amount of time Air 1 has been in the air.
Winnipeg Police Chief Keith McCaskill told council’s protection and community services committee Monday the force’s full compliment of three pilots has been cut to just one for about three weeks due to recent staff changes, but a new pilot has just been hired and the force is conducting a national search for a third.
“There is some downtime because of the pilots and so on,” McCaskill told the committee. “We’re certainly not ready for (a second helicopter) at all—we wouldn’t be able to justify it.”
Mechanical issues have also kept the helicopter on the ground a few times, said McCaskill, but he added the issues haven’t been major or anything that wasn’t expected for a new helicopter.
“There was a couple of issues last year on mechanical things we dealt with,” he said. “So far this year it’s been working very well.”
McCaskill told the committee Air 1 was able to log around 976 hours in the air last year of the 1000 hours it was expected to fly.
The aircraft responded to 1780 incidents in 2011 and was responsible for 127 arrests according to the chief.
Between January and March 2012 the police helicopter has logged 127 hours of flying time, responded to 288 incidents and helped out in 20 arrests, said McCaskill.
McCaskill expects Air 1’s new pilot to be ready to take flight in early June and said a review of the chopper’s first year in the air to be complete in the near future.