Author & photographer: Ian French
The Polizia di Stato is the main national police force in Italy and was a military force until 1981 when it was civilianised. It reports directly to the Department of Public Security and the keeping of public order is its primary mission.
It was recognised as long ago as the 1950s that police operations would be significantly enhanced with an aerial component and helicopters were initially borrowed to augment operations. Following the success of this it was then recognised that such operations required permanent operating and support teams and in 1971 the first Reparto Volo was established in Roma using the Agusta Bell 47.
Further units were gradually established around the country, the last being 11 Reparto Volo in Pescara which was formed in 1987.
Today the aerial segment of the Polizia di Stato comprises some 175 pilots and 350 specialist support staff.
The Polizia di Stato is headquartered in Roma at Pratica di Mare and is organised on a regional and provincial basis. There are currently 11 flying squadrons (Reparto Volo) spread through Italy as follows:
- 1 Reparto Volo – Pratica di Mare
- 2 Reparto Volo – Milano
- 3 Reparto Volo – Bologna
- 4 Reparto Volo – Palermo
- 5 Reparto Volo – Reggio Calabria
- 6 Reparto Volo – Napoli
- 7 Reparto Volo – Oristano
- 8 Reparto Volo – Firenze
- 9 Reparto Volo – Bari
- 10 Reparto Volo – Venzia
- 11 Reparto Volo – Pescara
The primary function of the units is to provide eyes in the sky to support public safety and traffic monitoring. This may entail surveillance, photographic evidence gathering and police support for arrests.
The fleet currently comprises the Agusta Bell 206, Agusta A109, Agusta Bell 212 and Agusta Westland AW139 helicopters and the Partenavia P68 Observer (patrol) and Piaggio P180 (VIP transport) fixed wing aircraft. Most locations operate the AB206 and then one of the other types. The AB212 does not operate in Venezia or Firenze as the helicopter vibration is thought to damage the historical buildings and monuments. Units that do not operate either the AB212 or AW139 have no night flying capability.
The newest helicopter, the AW139, has been introduced in the south of Italy. This fleet is 50% funded by the EU and under the terms of that funding 85% of mission times must be spent on immigrant monitoring. Five more helicopters are on order and the northern forces in Italy hope to receive some of these.
Aviation Press Ltd would like to thank Paolo Di Biagio and Mark Forest for their help in arranging the visit and the Polizia di Stato for hosting us, in particular the Reparto Voli at Bologna, Milano, Palermo and Roma who were extremely friendly and welcoming.
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