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Axel the Chopper?

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A few days ago I did a piece on the Winnipeg Police Service’s new helicopter.

A sidebar to it concerned its name:


What's in a name?

Its radio call sign is AIR 1, but that's not its name.

"People always call it AIR 1, but AIR 1 is not the name of the helicopter. It's just a radio call sign," Flight Operations Unit Insp. Mike Herman said.

It's aircraft registration is C-GAOL, which is not totally by accident. Gaol is the British spelling of jail.

"A lot of people are wondering did we go out and pay more for a vanity registration," Herman said. "The answer is, 'No'. When it was being registered we had a couple of options. We didn't go and seek that out. It was one of the options. We selected it."

The aircraft is a Eurocopter EC120-B Colibri. Colibri means 'hummingbird' in French, a reference to the Fenestron tail rotor which is designed to reduce noise.

The police service is actively seeking corporate sponsorship for the helicopter with the goal of selecting an official name.

Back in April the helicopter’s name was the subject of discussion on an online board of retired Winnipeg police officers and staff. The discussion included folks from senior levels to the communication centre.

I’ve taken out all names, just so no one’s privacy is invaded, and fixed up some grammatical errors just so it’s easier to read.

Here’s the conversation as it was sent to me. (Also linked here, for background, is a 1975 Winnipeg Free Press story: Bankers Give Award To Dog.)


New Helicopter- Air One- Let's Find a Name

" on: April 25, 2011, 10:21:58 PM "

 This evening I had a wonderful Monday evening with the family, including my daughter and her significant other who are both young officers on the job. I had a chance to talk about the effectiveness of the new police helicopter and they were very encouraged on its tracking and range, including how it protects the officers on a high-risk traffic stop.

Its functionality reminds me of a great police dog we all had the pleasure of knowing- Axel. I also found out that the police chopper does not have a name other than Air One so I proposed a great name, after a great tracker- Axel. This great dog's portrait sits in the chief's office- last time I recall.

The Winnipeg Police Canine Unit was established in 1971 with the purchase of three German Shepherd pups. One of these pups, P.S.D. AXEL, was one of the more notable service dogs in the history of the Winnipeg Police Service.

I propose that the WPS adopt a name of the helicopter after this great guardian. Comments?


Re: New Helicopter- Air One- Let's Find a Name

" Reply #1 on: April 25, 2011, 11:04:03 PM "


What a great idea. I'm sure  his handler would be thrilled at the idea as well. Axel was one great K-9. He even received the Canadian Bankers award if I remember right for his arrest of a bank robber back in the 70's. It was quite an arrest, when he engaged the perp the guys gun went off and shot himself. Axel was credited with the shooting.

P.S. At payday breakfast today it is believed (his handler) is still sticking to this story that Axel shot him. . .


Re: New Helicopter- Air One- Let's Find a Name

" Reply #2 on: April 26, 2011, 10:40:50 AM "


Guys, I'm on board with that. Great idea !!!!!


RE: New Helicopter- Air One- Let's Find a Name

" Reply #3 on: April 26, 2011, 02:20:11 PM "


Count me on this one..great idea


Re: New Helicopter- Air One- Let's Find a Name

" Reply #4 on: April 27, 2011, 08:05:29 AM "



I do recall Axel. He was not only a great looking dog but a true ANGEL! What a wonderful name.

I most definitely agree!!!!


Re: New Helicopter- Air One- Let's Find a Name

" Reply #5 on: April 27, 2011, 10:11:40 AM "


Sorry gang, but I can't agree on this one. I think that having two names could lead to confusion, and the last thing we want in a hectic police chase, etc., is confusion. I do agree Axel was a valuable member of the department and everybody loves a dog, but there must be another way to honor him.


Re: New Helicopter- Air One- Let's Find a Name

" Reply #6 on: April 27, 2011, 10:30:12 AM "

Well guys, I would have to agree. The use of two names at times would be confusing to all people involved.

I see no problem with " Air One" as the helicopter's call sign and operational identity. Let’s go one further and honour Axel by putting his picture and a script to his service on the side of the helicopter.

I think this covers all the points of interest.


Re: New Helicopter- Air One- Let's Find a Name

" Reply #7 on: April 27, 2011, 11:53:22 AM "

And further, what about the fine officers that have lost their lives in the line of duty? Could they be honoured in this fashion?


Re: New Helicopter- Air One- Let's Find a Name

" Reply #8 on: May 31, 2011, 09:34:02 PM "


I had the opportunity to see as a ground unit how effective the chopper could be. Our suspects were already outside our Perimeter when it put up and we caught them. Plus I was up in the copter, Truly awesome. If only we had had this years ago.


OK, then.


Here’s the challenge: Suggest your own name for the helicopter. And please, Airwolf, Blue Thunder and Thunderbird are already taken.

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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