07/15/2013 06:42 EDT | Updated 09/14/2013 05:12 EDT

RCMP Helicopter Speed Traps: Alberta Mounties Back In The Skies Looking For Speeders


EDMONTON - If you're driving through Alberta this summer, watch out for speed traps in the sky.

RCMP Supt. Howard Eaton says the Mounties' aerial surveillance helicopter is back in the skies and Highway 63 between Edmonton and Fort McMurray has been added to patrol routes.

Flying speed traps have been around in Alberta since the 1960s, but Eaton says they sometimes fell victim to budget cuts, particularly when privately contracted aircraft were needed.

Eaton says they use the RCMP helicopter now and they time flights to coincide with flights pilots would normally have to take to keep up their proficiency.

No radar is needed — Eaton says an observer in the chopper uses a stopwatch and records how long it takes a vehicle to travel between lines painted on the highway.

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Warning signs have been erected to alert divers that a highway is aircraft patrolled, but Eaton says speeders are often surprised when they get busted.

"We pulled a fellow over and he was a little bit surly," Eaton recalls of a traffic stop he made on Highway 2 between Edmonton and Calgary.

"He said, 'Why are you stopping me?' I said, 'You were speeding.'

He said, 'I didn't see anybody.' I said, 'It was aircraft."

"He said, 'Aw, cool!'"

Mounties say a recommendation to add aerial enforcement to Highway 63 was included in a report on the roadway that was produced in 2012 by Mike Allen, the legislature member for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo.

The road is the main connector between Edmonton and the oilsands in northern Alberta and has been dubbed "Death Highway" because of its many fatalities.

RCMP say the primary aircraft that will be used for the surveillance will be RCMP K Division's 2007 Eurocopter AS350.