Bahrain 2012: Police Aviation emerges from the shadows
Aviation in independent Bahrain began with a small helicopter unit that formed part of Bahrain Public Security (the former Bahrain State Police), from which today's Police Aviation is directly descended.
But little has been written about the force, and even its name is frequently mis-reported.
The Flying Wing of the Bahrain Public Security Force (controlled by the Bahrain Ministry of the Interior) has operated a variety of helicopter types over the years, including Hughes H269Cs, Hughes H500Ds, Sikorsky S-76s, a McCulloch J2 Autogyro, and even a Bell 427.
But since 2004, when the Flying Wing was renamed as Police Aviation, the unit has been exclusively equipped with the Bell 412, and today has eight aircraft on charge – one ‘classic’ 412, one Bell 412SP and six Bell 412EPs.
Colonel Waleed R Alsenan, commander of Police Aviation, said: “The Bell 412 suits our weather, can cope with our environment (which is hot and humid) and is capable of performing all of our main roles.”
These roles include search and rescue (SAR), photography (assisting other departments and ministries, as well as the police and Ministry of the Interior), traffic work, and the transport of casualties to hospital. The unit is also training for the fire-fighting role, using under-slung Bambi buckets, and has an aspiration to embrace a fuller helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) role.
Search and rescue is the major role and Police Aviation’s commander is particularly proud of a recent rescue in which a Bell 412 plucked 17 people from a life raft after their Dhow sank in poor weather. “No-one else wanted to go,” Colonel Alsenan said. “There was poor visibility and it was very windy – 30kts or so.”
The unit maintains one aircraft on 24-hour SAR standby, but is usually able to scramble at least two aircraft.