Charter service not ‘too happy’ police helicopter used for movie shoot

A part-owner of a Manitoba-based helicopter charter service is disappointed a taxpayer-funded helicopter was used during a recent movie shoot in La Salle, Man.

The helicopter was used during production of ‘The Parts You Lose’ starring Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul, but there are still questions about exactly what the chopper was used for in the movie.

Speaking to CTV Winnipeg during a flight to Thompson Monday morning, Derek Longley, vice-president of Gimli-based Prairie Helicopters Inc., said he wasn’t “too happy” to hear the Winnipeg Police Service helicopter was used in the filming.

“I thought it was weird they were using a publicly-funded helicopter in a movie shoot,” said Longley. “There’s lots of civilian operators they could’ve called.”

“What if something was to happen in Winnipeg? I know they were only two (seconds) away but…”

Longley said he’s chartered helicopters for movie shoots in the past and suggested if the movie’s producers specifically wanted a police helicopter, decals could’ve been added to a civilian-owned chopper.

Winnipeg police defended the use of Air-1 in a statement issued on Friday.

Police said the flight time for the actual shoot was 72 minutes which included flight time from the hangar and back.

“It was never more than a few seconds from city limits,” police said in the statement.

Winnipeg police said the request to use the helicopter came from the city’s manager of film and special events “to help meet critical resource and production timelines.”

“The request was deemed a low risk,” police said. “Our costs were assessed at a cost recovery basis only.”

“At no time did Air-1 carry passengers, cargo or lift anything for the shoot. No incidents requiring Air-1 to divert occurred during its use.”

A Toronto-based aviation expert said the optics of using a government-funded helicopter don’t look good, but Phyl Durdey of Flightline Training Services said beyond that, he doesn’t see any other issue with the police helicopter being used in the movie shoot, in part because there were no passengers on board.

“They weren’t chartering the aircraft,” said Durdey. “They were just flying it out to a point and then came back.”

“I don’t see it being a big issue.”

The City of Winnipeg declined CTV’s request to speak with the city’s manager of film and special events.

In a statement, a city spokesperson said, “the City’s Film & Special Events Office provides the effective liaison between the private and public sectors. Requests for City assets, personnel, and equipment, be it a from a production company, event organizer or the like, would be made through that office.”

“A spokesperson for the Mayor said Brian Bowman won’t be available to comment on camera Monday, but over the weekend the Mayor’s office deferred questions to the police service, saying it was responsible for “operational decisions” regarding police resources.

The statement from the Mayor’s officer also said Bowman has “communicated his concerns regarding the use of the police helicopter with the Chief of Police in order to better understand the rationale and policy surrounding the allocation and deployment of the police helicopter in circumstances such as this.”

A communications agency for the U.S. based film finance and production company H Collective said it’s working on a response to questions about the specific role of the police helicopter in the movie.

CTV News reached out to other companies which charter helicopters near Winnipeg.

No one from Taiga Air Services was immediately available for comment, while Fast Air declined.



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