By J.V. N. (Vince) Hawkes -- Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police
ORILLIA, ON, May 5, 2015 /CNW/ - While I can understand and I am sympathetic to the desire of the people of the Sudbury area to keep one of the OPP's helicopters based at the Sudbury Airport, I need to set the record straight on why we have made the decision to centralize maintenance of both helicopters at our General Headquarters in Orillia.
First and foremost, the OPP is obligated to make use of all of its resources in the most effective and efficient way to serve all Ontarians.
OPP helicopters are a provincial resource deployed where needed throughout Ontario: They are not assigned to a single region or purpose. While search and rescue consumes about 70 per cent of their flying hours, the helicopters are also used in drug eradication efforts and to quickly transport specialized teams such as the OPP Emergency Response Team.
The OPP makes all operational decisions carefully after a full review and with increased public safety as the top priority: We have carefully studied helicopter use as well as past and projected needs for helicopter aviation services. All indications are that the people of Ontario will be better served if OPP helicopter maintenance is centralized in Orillia.
From May of 2011 to September of 2014, 75 per cent of the service calls for OPP helicopters were to the southern regions of the province. During that same time period, the helicopter based in Sudbury flew north of Sudbury 162 times and south of Orillia 185 times while the helicopter based in Orillia flew north of Sudbury 30 times and south of Orillia 307 times.
It's about improving service to the entire province, including Sudbury area: After the change takes place, the two helicopters will be staffed and available 365 days a year from 6 a.m. until midnight. This is an increase of eight hours per day or approximately 2,910 hours of scheduled availability per year. This increase is one direct benefit of the relocation of the helicopter and our pilot positions.
Down time for both helicopters will be reduced and safety improved because the senior engineer is located in Orillia which will make inspections more efficient. Trouble shooting will be easier with two engineers at the same site working together with a common pool of spare parts. Communication will improve with the aviation team in one location and they will all be closer to technical support from the manufacturer and Transport Canada.
The OPP helicopters are only one part of search and rescue efforts: The OPP search and rescue mandate is extensive and supported by: 250 Emergency Response Team (ERT) members deployed across the province specially trained in search and rescue; 69 search and rescue managers; 29 tracking dogs and five cadaver dogs; 13 underwater search and recovery divers; 13 pilots, two helicopters, two fixed wing aircraft and seven unmanned aerial vehicles.
In addition, since January of 2015, the OPP has leased a DHC-2T Turbo Beaver from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) to support policing services in Northern Ontario. This plane is located in Thunder Bay and is crewed by OPP pilots. It can hold up to six people and is capable of landing on snow, ice, paved runway and water.
The safety of people in the Sudbury Region will not be compromised by the relocation: In fact, safety in the Sudbury Region, and the rest of the province, will be improved. Flying time from Orillia to Sudbury by helicopter is less than one hour. With the additional service hours, the OPP helicopters will be more available to respond to emergencies in the Sudbury Region.
Weather is always a factor in aviation, but is not significantly different between Orillia and Sudbury. In fact, in 2014, the OPP was unable to respond to 21 calls for helicopter service due to weather-related conditions. Of those 21 calls, 15 were in the North East or North West regions of the province. The remaining six calls affected by weather were in the southern regions.
The OPP will continue to work with many partners to provide effective search and rescue services to the north: The OPP has over a 40-year history of working closely with the MNR and have used their aircraft based in Dryden, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins, Sudbury and Muskoka extensively for decades. All except Sault Ste. Marie have an MNR helicopter available.
Other partners include: The Ontario Search and Rescue Volunteer Association (OSARVA) which has 563 members in 20 teams across the province; the Civil Air Search And Rescue Association (CASARA) which has 225 members in nine teams across the province; the Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) in Trenton; The 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group which has 695 members in 20 communities across Northern Ontario; and Ontario has 22 municipal police services with search and rescue programs.
I would ask the people of Sudbury Region and their leaders to carefully consider the information in this article. The OPP has made this decision with the best interests of all in mind.
SOURCE Ontario Provincial Police
Image with caption: "OPP Helicopters (CNW Group/Ontario Provincial Police)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150505_C6927_PHOTO_EN_16220.jpg
For further information: Sgt. Peter Leon, OPP Media Relations Coordinator, Phone: (705) 329-6878