First of 2 new Calgary police helicopters to be unveiled Tuesday

CALGARY — Calgary police have received one of two new Airbus H125 helicopters, which will replace the current HAWCS fleet patrolling the skies above the city.

The machine will be unveiled at an event Tuesday afternoon.

“This selection was based on a number of criteria including ability to respond to crime in an urban environment, fuel capacity, technology needs and impact to the public,” police said in a statement.

“Upgrading to the Airbus H125 brings CPS in line with the current industry standard for law enforcement, as the model is used by police agencies in 30 regions across the world.”

The current helicopters have been in use for more than 15 years and were scheduled for replacement twice, once in 2013 and again in 2016.

“However, after an evaluation of the equipment and to save on costs, the service postponed the replacements and invested in several upgrades to extend the life of the helicopters,” police said in a statement.

“In 2018, the service recognized significant upcoming maintenance costs and technological limitations of the current helicopters and began a two-year replacement process.”

The new machines are expected to be in service for the next 15 to 20 years, and cost $5.5 million each.

“HAWCS is an exceptional resource for our service. Whether we are responding to public safety incidents, searching for vulnerable people, or locating offenders, we would not have the same success without HAWCS,” said deputy Chief Chad Tawfik. “We have seen countless examples where HAWCS was the difference maker in resolving an incident successfully.”

In 2019, HAWCS responded to 4,121 calls for service, which resulted in the arrest of 761 suspects and 2,366 charges laid.

“No other unit in CPS can match the response time of HAWCS. We are able to travel from one end of the city to the other in just eight minutes, making us the first unit on scene in 80 per cent of the calls that we attend,” said Sgt Tanya Paziuk of the Air Support Unit.

“Aside from outdated technology, a significant limitation of our current helicopters is the fuel capacity. With these new Airbus H125, we will be able to respond to many more calls for service before needing to land and refuel.”

Once replaced, the current HAWC1 and HAWC2 helicopters — a model that has since been discontinued — will be sold at market value.

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