Skip to main content

'Unusual': Edmonton police kept plane 'covert' for 31 years, $4.3M to be spent on a new one


Police officers have been "covertly" patrolling, chasing and spotting from a secret plane above Edmonton since 1993, and taxpayers will foot the bill for new wings to keep that program going.

The existence of the plane and the purchase of a new one at a cost of $4.3 million was revealed by a city councillor, and the Edmonton Police Service is not happy about that.

The current plane is a 1980 Cessna purchased in 1993 and has been flown by EPS employees since then. It's used during police chases, missing person cases and "joint force operations," the service said.

EPS Chief Dale McFee defended the use of the plane and the expenditure for a new one Thursday.

"Like all other big cities, we have some people who chose to hurt other people, and they're bad. And they're not anything other than that, and they want to create chaos," McFee said.

EPS officials claim the plane was only discussed in private meetings with city councillors and police commissioners "to ensure and maintain both public and officer safety."

The existence of the plane was made public when Coun. Michael Janz questioned EPS officials about it during a Community and Public Services Committee meeting on Nov. 8, 2021.

That discussion was streamed live and posted to YouTube. A story about that was then published Monday by an independent journalism newsletter.


"It was my first meeting as a city councillor. I had no idea the plane was a secret item. I thought it was common knowledge," Janz told CTV News Edmonton Thursday.

He added that other cities have planes, the EPS aircraft is listed on a Transport Canada registry and he heard about it from members of the flying club that uses the Villeneuve Airport, where the plane is parked.

"I resent any implication that I did any kind of wrongdoing. In fact, I think we need more scrutiny of police expenditures. It's almost a quarter of your tax bill," Janz argued.

"We are disappointed that the in-camera protocols were not followed. Public knowledge of this could jeopardize investigations and put officers and citizens at risk," EPS spokesperson Cheryl Sheppard said.

McFee stated he didn't think EPS would file a complaint against Janz for speaking publicly about the plane, but he worries it may force the service to make changes.

"When you're dealing with organized crime and intelligence, a lot of them do counterintelligence on the police. The fact that the location where we park the plane is now public, that is a concern," McFee said.

But the explanations offered by EPS about the need for a plane don't add up for a professor of justice studies.

"Planes were the very first aerial units in policing agencies in North America, so they predate helicopters," explained Doug King at Mount Royal University.

King said planes are quieter and many have a longer fuel range, but he still doesn't understand why EPS needs two helicopters and a plane.

"It's rare that you'll find a police agency with both a plane and a helicopter. That's unusual," he said, adding that EPS should explain the reasons for the purchase in greater depth.

The new EPS plane is expected to arrive in late 2022.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Joe Scarpelli Top Stories

Stay Connected