With the largest multi-sport event in the world held this summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, security became a major concern for tourists and visiting athletes. Reports of armed robberies, attacks and other criminal activity prompted Olympic committees and local officials to issue travel warnings and curfews.
Helicopters were instrumental in protecting Olympic athletes, dignitaries and spectators. They were said to make up the largest tactical support operation both the military and civilian industries had ever seen at an Olympics. While most Olympic events were held in Rio, some were hosted at distant locations in São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Brasília and Manaus.
The country’s defense ministry enforced temporary no-fly zones in all areas. Only authorized aircraft and drones were allowed to operate.
More than 120 military, parapublic and civil helicopters performed surveillance, air defense, anti-terrorrism, public security, air medical rescue, highway patrol and communication missions. Ninety of these helicopters were from Airbus Helicopters subsidiary Helibras.
The army provided seven AS550 Fennecs, 11 AS565 Panthers, six H225M Caracals and four AS532 Cougars. The air force had four H225Ms, two VIP-configured AS332 Super Pumas and two EC135s. From the navy, four AS350 Ecureils were based in Rio and four H225s operated in the other cities.
During the soccer games, São Paulo’s military police air unit operated 15 Ecureils and one EC135 for surveillance and public security. In Minas Gerais (whose capital is Belo Horizonte), state military police operated two H125s and one EC145 from the firefighting squadron. Brasília had five Ecureils from military police and the transportation department and one EC135 from the military firefighting squadron. Salvador had two Ecureils, one EC135 from military police and one EC135 and one AS355N from the state military in Bahia (whose capital is Salvador).
Manaus had one H125 from state public security. A number of the army’s Sikorsky Black Hawks, the navy’s Seahawks and some of Bell Helicopter’s highway patrol aircraft were also engaged.
Civilian traffic was coordinated by the Brazilian Assn. of Helicopter Pilots (ABRAPHE), with its head office in São Paulo and another in Rio. R&WI