January 9, 2020

Air1 Gives Chase in Winnipeg


In the early morning hours of December 31, Winnipeg Police Service’s Air1 helicopter pursued fleeing automobile drivers in not one but two incidents of stolen vehicles.

In the first incident, ground-based police noticed a passing vehicle that had been stolen the day before. They gave chase but backed off as the fleeing vehicle sped away at high speeds. At that point, Air1 joined the chase and tracked the vehicle along city streets at speeds of up to 140 km/h (in a 60 km/h zone).

The driver attempted to cross the median at one point but got stuck halfway. The male driver and a female passenger then fled the vehicle and headed into nearby bushes and an industrial subdivision. Using infrared thermal imaging cameras, the airborne police officers were able to direct ground-based units to a point where they were able to apprehend the suspects.

Roughly 30 minutes later, another stolen car was spotted. Its driver, too, decided to make a run for it, speeding away from police cruisers that were in pursuit. Again, Air1 was called in to assist as the police cruisers broke off the chase. Again, the airborne officers gave a turn-by-turn commentary of the vehicle’s path. Ground-based police were eventually able to box in the stolen car and arrest the 24-year-old female driver.

The Winnipeg Police Service has a policy of not entering into high-speed pursuits of fleeing vehicles as these pose too much danger to nearby traffic, the pursuing police officers and the occupants of the fleeing vehicles. With the help of Air1, they have a much safer alternative.

Air1 is an Airbus Helicopters EC120 Colibri single-engine turbo-shaft model. When flying at an altitude of 1,000 feet above ground level, it has a perceived noise level of 68 dB, which makes it difficult to detect on the ground, making it a good choice for police surveillance work. It is crewed by a pilot and Tactical Flight Officer who is responsible for determining the use of the helicopter and controls its hi-tech systems.

Both chases were recorded on video and can be viewed here.

Photo by Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press