When police forces around the Lower Mainland call for backup from a helicopter, it will now be responding from Langley.
The RCMP announced Wednesday that they have moved their Air One helicopters to the Langley Regional Airport, and signed a long-term lease.
"If you look at a map of the Lower Mainland, Langley is dead centre," said Nigel Bushe, the officer in charge of the E Division Air Services.
The decision to move from the Vancouver International Airport to Langley was made a few months ago, and the helicopters started taking off and landing here in June. Now all the personnel and equipment have been moved into a hangar off of 56th Avenue.
The two reasons for the big move were costs and operations, said Bushe.
On the operations side, it was taking 10 to 15 minutes to get clearance from the tower at YVR to actually take off. That wasn't ideal in an emergency.
Sea Island, the home of YVR between Richmond and Vancouver, also wasn't the best place to be if you wanted to get to Chilliwack.
"It means better coverage," said Roger Thomson, a civilian pilot for the program.
Thomson, the first pilot hired when the Air One program started in 2006, noted that the helicopters are expected to cover an area from Hope to Whistler.
"When we used to be in YVR, we were at the western end of our patrol area," Thomson said.
Now they're about three to four minutes from northwestern Surrey, three minutes from Maple Ridge, and they don't have to worry about a 767 coming in through the airspace and complicating their ability to take off and land.
It is also expensive to operate out of YVR.
With helicopters moved to Langley, and with the RCMP's fixed-wing aircraft, or airplanes, moved to Boundary Bay within a few months, it will save the RCMP about $150,000 to $200,000, estimated Bushe. Longterm leases have been signed for both locations already. There are currently two helicopters and two pilots in the program, and Bushe said hopefully a third aircraft will be added within a year as well as more staff. A third aircraft would likely be a larger twin-rotor craft in contrast to the single-rotor helicopters now in use, and would be used more for border patrols and search and rescue.
The two current craft concentrate on supporting police on the ground by following suspects, searching for missing people, or keeping an eye on anything that needs watching from the sky.
"What's unique about them is they're very quiet," said Bushe.
Local officials and politicians from Langley City and Township, along with Langley MP Mark Warawa, were on hand to see the official launch of the service from Langley.
The manager of the airport was excited about the new tenant.
"It's fabulous, this is a really important flying service to have on the airport," said Langley Regional Airport manager Guy Miller.
It fits in with the airport's niche of attracting helicopters. Over the past two decades, the airport has become a hub of maintenance and fabrication firms based around helicopters.
Troy Landreville, Langley Advance / Roger Thomson Pilot; Troy Landreville, Langley Advance / Nigel Bushe, officer in charge of the RCMP E Division's Air Services, explained that cost and convenience are why the two local RCMP helicopters will now be flying out of the Langley Regional Airport, instead of the Vancouver International Airport.;
@ Copyright 2013