Edmonton Police plan to ask the city for $14 million over five years to buy two new helicopters to replace the current fleet of single-engine choppers.
Police say the single-engine helicopters are no longer sufficient to travel the longer distances from the new base at the Villeneuve Airport, in Sturgeon County, northwest of St. Albert.
Police moved the Air 1 base to Villeneuve in November 2013 due to the closure of the City Centre Airport.
“Our helicopters are single engine, quite small, and it doesn’t have the capacity that a larger machine does,” Supt. Kevin Galvin said after police made a presentation at council’s community services committee on Monday.
Police say the increased travel time is compromising their ability to respond to crime scenes.
According to figures released by Edmonton Police, the average response time was four minutes in the first three months of 2013. That time more than doubled — up to 9.4 minutes — in the same time period of 2014.
Police want to sell one helicopter next year and replace it with a twin-engine chopper that can fly higher and faster. They also want to establish a heliport location within Edmonton city limits by 2019.
Twin-engine helicopters are powerful enough to lift off from a heliport; the single-engine choppers need the space offered by a runway to get in the air.
The final stage of the helicopter plan would be to buy or lease a second twin-engine chopper in 2019.
Councillors will consider the request when the capital budget is debated this fall.