During our tour of Cyprus, on November 9 2021, MAR was granted permission to visit the Cyprus Police Aviation Unit based at Larnaca Airport. We were welcomed by Captain Christos Kyriakides who kindly took great care of us during our visit. We were then given a detailed and informative presentation by Superintendent B’ and Deputy Chief Commander Xanthos Georgiades about the C.P.A.U and the work they carry out on a daily basis.
The Cyprus Police Aviation Unit (C.P.A.U) was initially given the name of Cyprus Police Air Wing (C.P.A.W) which was established in May 1990 following the purchase of a multi engine BN-2T Turbine Islander (5B-CPA) and a Bell 412 (5B-CPB). These were later re-registered to ‘CP-1’ and ‘CP-2’ respectively. An interesting fact we learnt during our visit is that the odd numbers in the registry are allocated to fixed wing aircraft whilst the even numbers are allocated to rotary aircraft.
The C.P.A.W was a division of Department ‘D’ of Police Headquarters (Technical and Scientific Department). The establishment of C.P.A.W was the result of political decisions within the various government sectors to promote the Police operational capability for crime prevention and humanitarian AID to the public.
On June 10th 2008, the C.P.A.W became an independent unit, renamed to how it is known today as the Cyprus Police Aviation Unit – C.P.A.U, attached administratively to the Assistant Chief of Police Support Services. The Commander of the Unit is defined by the Chief of Police.
The base and the premises of the Unit are located at Larnaca International Airport, consisting of 2160m² of hangar space and 1450m² for offices, stores and workshops. The hangar along with the adjacent apron space are capable of facilitating other country’s helicopters which can further increase interoperability between the C.P.A.U and other air arms during exercises or firefighting activities. In fact, just a few days before our visit, the hangars housed an Italian Air Force HH-139 for joint training.
Duties and Missions of the C.P.A.U include the following:
- The surveillance of the coasts and territorial limits of the republic, and the patrol of the Nicosia FIR (Flight Information Region) in cooperation with other units to prevent drug trafficking, illegal immigration and terrorism.
- Supervision and surveillance of the highways and major main roads.
- Search and Rescue missions for saving lives and property in case of naval and aviation accidents within the Nicosia FIR according to the NEARCHOS Plan
- Transport of patients for injured persons to a suitable medical center in Cyprus.
- Firefighting and support of other firefighting units according to the IKAROS Plan
- Locate exhibits under water with the support of C.P.A.U. divers
- Transportation of police members and other government personnel for special missions.
- Escorting and transporting high government officials and VIPs upon Chief of Police Approval.
- Execution of any missions which are assigned to the C.P.A.U. by the Cyprus Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC).
- Execute any other duties, which are requested by the chief of Police.
Currently, the C.P.A.U operates 4 rotary aircraft which consist of:
- Bell 412 SP ‘APOLLON’ CP-2 – Delivered 1990
- Bell 412 EP ‘AKRITAS’ CP-4 – Delivered 1997
- AW139 ‘ACHILLEAS’ CP-6 – Delivered 2010
- AW139 ‘IASON’ CP-8 – Delivered 2010
The two new Agusta Westland AW139 helicopters were delivered to the C.P.A.U. at the end of 2010. These have increased the operational capability of the Unit to meet the continuously increasing demands for missions, as well as to fulfill the Republic’s obligations to International Organizations with regards to missions such as Search and Rescue, Illegal Immigration, etc.
The AW139 helicopters are IFR Capable equipped with weather/search radars and VHF-AM (2), VHF-FM, HF, UHF, POLICE/HOSPITAL Radio and SAT COM for communication purposes. They also carry Forward looking infrared (FLIR) cameras and a side-attached searchlight.
Rescue equipment includes a Direction-Finding Homing Device which uses the reception of radio waves to determine the direction in which a radio station or an object is located, a rescue hoist for winch operations, a 4- Axis Autopilot capable of holding search patterns and a single or three patient stretcher configurations.
The helicopters are also equipped with a loud hailer to deliver amplified messages outside the aircraft, a cargo hook with Bambi Bucket provision for firefighting activities, 2x Machine Gun Installations if required and fast rope/rappelling kits.
On the other hand, the Bell 412s are Night Vision capable unlike their counterparts. The Bell helicopters are also IFR Capable and are equipped with GPS (Skymap IIIC), weather radar (Primus 700), Marine Radio (Wulfsberg C1000) and Police Radio. Rescue equipment includes a Direction-Finding Homing Device (Becker-517), Life Rafts, Life Vests and a Rescue Hoist (Internal on CP-2 whilst external on CP-4). Both Bell 412s are also equipped with a loud hailer, Bambi bucket provision and Machine Gun Installations.
Pilots are trained regularly in the following academies:
- Police Academy
- Flight Safety International until 2004
- Oxford Aviation Academy simulator for re-evaluation of pilots at the main task of the unit and emergency procedures.
- AgustaWestland Italy
- Cobham (FBHeliservices)
- RAF Shawbury, UK
- Helo Dunker with the Hellenic Navy, which is a course that provides crew with the skills and confidence to successfully and safely remove themselves from a helicopter that is submerged in water.
- Crew Resource Management (CRM)
Engineers/technicians are trained periodically in various organizations and companies to maintain a high level of maintenance and Flight Safety:
- Police Academy
- Bell Textron
- Bratt and Whitney in Germany and Canada
- Hellenic Aerospace Industry
- Augusta Westland in Italy
- Helo Dunker with the Hellenic Navy
- Crew Resource Management (CRM)
The Special Operations Team (SOT) undergo SWAT Training, Helo Dunker training with the Hellenic Navy and other training activities with the Police Academy and Hellenic Air Force.
Apart from such training activities, the C.P.A.U participate in a number of yearly exercises, one which stands out in particular is the NEMESIS exercise. A week prior to our visit, on the 3rd of November 2021 “NEMESIS 2021” was conducted within sea-plots 1, 2, 8 and 9 of the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus.
Aeronautical units and personnel from Cyprus, Greece, France, the UK, the USA, Israel, Italy and Egypt, as well as of 6 private companies participated in the exercise. The exercise aims to prepare all the involved in the proper confrontation of any distress situation that may occur on a hydrocarbon platform. The overall coordination of the exercise was under the JRCC, in collaboration with the Deputy Ministry of Shipping, the National Guard, the Cyprus Police and the Department of Fisheries.
The exercise included counter-terrorism scenarios on a hydrocarbon platform, boarding operations on suspicious boats, ship firefighting, air-evacuation of trapped and injured persons, mass rescue operation as a result of the abandonment of the platform, as well as anti-pollution operations.
After the presentation we were escorted down to the hangar where we were allowed to photograph the air assets. In the hangars were two AW139s ‘CP-6’ & ‘CP-8’ and one Bell 412 EP ‘CP-4’. Bell 412 SP ‘CP-2’ was at the time undergoing a 5-year maintenance check in Czechia (Prague). We were given an explanation regarding the assets and their capabilities such as the Bambi Bucket provision used for firefighting activities of which such examples could be seen in the hangar.
The visit was concluded in style as ‘CP-4’ was towed out of the hangar to head out for a local training flight which gave us the opportunity to photograph some fantastic shots of the iconic Bell 412.
This drew to an end another terrific visit. We would like to thank the Police HQ and Cyprus Police Aviation Unit for letting us visit them and Deputy Chief Commander Xanthos Georgiades, Captain Christos Kyriakides and all crew for their fantastic hospitality and help.