Monday, June 1, 2015

CQ Plane Spotting Historic Spot - The Queensland Police Service (Airwing) History and Aircraft

This month, I thought we'd take a look at a brief history of the Queensland Police Service (Airwing) along with the helicopters and fixed wing aircraft that they have and continue to operate all over the Queensland.  The Airwing's lone bizjet and various turbo-prop aircraft are frequent visitors to the Central Queensland region.

The Queensland Police Service (Airwing) had an unofficial beginning in 1956 when a police officer stationed at Camooweal in North-Western Queensland, flew his own Tiger Moth to provide assistance - in a limited capacity - with police work.  Almost 20 years later, the official Queensland Police Service (Airwing) commenced operations with two aircraft and four pilots operating out of Archerfield Airport in 1975.  By 1980, operations had relocated to Brisbane Airport.

However in 1983, after a relatively short stint operating out of Brisbane Airport, the Airwing Division was closed down.  But in 1985, the Queensland Police Service (Airwing) was reformed, although this time, it was staffed by civilian pilots.  And even today, civilian pilots continue to operate the fleet of Airwing aircraft out of Brisbane, Cairns and Mount Isa.

Over the years, the Airwing fleet has consistently comprised of various aircraft featuring a Cessna  Citation bizjet, supported by various turbo-prop aircraft capable of fulfilling a utility role and able to transport 8-18 passengers.  In recent years, the Queensland Police have also starting operating helicopters around the South-East corner of the state in primarily aerial survey and reconnaissance roles.

Perhaps the nicest aircraft operated by the Airwing since the mid-1908s have been a pair of Cessna Citation bizjets with Cessna 550 Citation II initially operating out of Brisbane from 1987 to 1999.

In 1999, Cessna 560 Citation Ultra VH-PSU replaced VH-WNZ and remains active in the Airwing fleet.  It is also based at the Airwing's shared hangar on the Eastern side of Brisbane Airport.

In their various roles, a trio of Cessna 208B Caravans - VH-PSQ, VH-PSV and VH-PSY - operate from Brisbane, Cairns and Mount Isa, often transporting officers between various Queensland cities and towns.  The Caravans have also been noted operating aerial surveillance flights during major Queensland events like the G-20 meeting in Brisbane last year.

Also operating in Northern Queensland is the Airwing's Pilatus Britten-Norman BN-2A Islander VH-PSX.

The Airwing also operated Beech B300 Super King Air VH-PSK from 1996 to 2005 in a prisoner transport role.

From 2005, Raytheon 1900D VH-PSK took over these duties from the Super King Air and still maintains this role. ferrying prisoners up and down the Queensland coast, usually three times each week, with it often calling into various Central Queensland Airports during its day of flying.

Finally, in November 2011, it was announced by the Queensland Government that a six month, $500,000 trial contract - funded by the Gold Coast City Council - was awarded to Perth-based Heliwest to provide Queensland with its first police helicopter.  Bell 206 Long Ranger VH-ZHP was based on the Gold Coast and was flown by Heliwest pilots and crewed by Queensland Police.  It was fitted with a Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) camera and a Night Sun searchlight, and came with night vision goggles for the pilots and crew.

Aaron Coghill /

After what was a very successful trial, the Queensland Government took over the funding of the Police helicopter and announced an extension of the trial.  The Government leased Eurocopter (Bolkow) BO105 CBS-5 helicopter VH-NVH from Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) to fulfil this initial role.

File photo taken by Terry Magee  ©

In their 2012 State Budget, the Government announced that two helicopters would be operating out of both the Gold Coast and Brisbane by the end of 2014 to provide the "eye in the sky".  Two further Eurocopter (Bolkow) BO105 CBS-5 helicopters - VH-NVI and VH-NVK - were purchased by SLSQ for the sole use of the Police.

VH-NVI was first to be unveiled in August 2013 on the Gold Coast. It was branded in police colours and took up the radio callsign of "Polair 1".

VH-NVK was unveiled in January 2014 and is based at Archerfield.  It too wears full Police colours and has taken up the radio callsign of "Polair 2".

Photo taken by Travis Whiting  ©

Both helicopters continue to provide an effective aerial observation platform to assist the Queensland Police Force on the ground.  VH-NVK was also noted in Gladstone, Biloela / Thangool and Rockhampton during the recent aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Marcia.

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