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US Airborne Law Enforcement

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  • US Airborne Law Enforcement

    KCPD's Helicopter Pioneer Returns to Home Base

    A piece of Kansas City law enforcement history occurred on Monday as one of the men who helped to start Kansas City's police helicopter unit returned to see how much it had changed.

    KCPD's MD500 helicopter

    Jack Brady, 87, flew one of the city's original choppers when the unit began flying helicopters for the department in 1968. On Monday, he got a chance to fly in the unit's latest version.

    "It was wonderful to meet him," said Kevin O'Sullivan of the KCPD Police Helicopter Unit. "He just came in and said, 'Hey, I'm Jack Brady. I was here,' you know?"

    KCPD veteran pilot Jack Brady takes to the skies again

    O'Sullivan said Brady's stories of the unit's earliest days are great, including the story of how one of the pilots tracked down a missing girl and used the chopper's loudspeaker to tell her to go home.

    "Later, the parents said that little girl fell in the door and told them the angels told her to go home," Brady said. "I said, 'There's anything but angels in that helicopter up there.'"

    Brady flew around the city Monday, revisiting an airborne beat that looks much different than it did during his day. He said he was impressed with the versatility of the new helicopter compared with the ones he flew more than 40 years ago.

  • #2

    SAPD Receives New Colibris

    North America's San Antonio Police Department have taken delivery of a pair of brand new EC120 Colibri helicopters. Like black and gold hummingbirds with painted eagle wings, the two new police helicopters soared into the morning air on Monday.

    “These aircraft have been designed and equipped with the latest technology and equipment that will enhance our enforcement capabilities in the sky,” said William McManus, Chief of the San Antonio Police Department.

    San Antonio Police Department Chaplain Rev. Paul Worley blesses the department's two new Airbus EC120 helicopters with holy water at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Monday, April 7, 2014

    San Antonio Police Department Pilot Garret Hunter opens the door to one of the department's new helicopters as they are unveiled at Alamodome on Monday, April 7, 2014

    Police and city officials unveiled the new Eurocopter EC120s on Monday, both helicopters costing about $5 million, said City Manager Sheryl Sculley. They will replace the Schweizer helicopters which the city are selling.

    The Schweizer choppers are about 10 years old and ran on outdated technology, said Deputy Chief Jeff Humphrey of the tactical support division.

    Patrol helicopters are used mainly for surveillance and assistance finding missing or wanted people, said Sgt. Patrick McNamara, a pilot.

    The new helicopters have an updated infrared camera system that will be particularly useful after Fiesta starts later this week. Police have always had the ability to view live helicopter footage in a ground trailer, but the new copters broadcast a clearer image, McNamara said. They can also transmit footage to ground units about 20 miles away, whereas the older models can only transmit over two or three miles.

    After receiving noise complaints from residents during night air patrols, police made sure the new models would be quieter. They also have air conditioning, unlike their predecessors. The heat inside sometimes required officers to crack windows, which muddled their radio transmissions, McNamara said.

    “It made it very difficult for the guys on the ground or the dispatcher to hear us because of the helicopter noise,” he said.

    The new copters also seat five people instead of three and have updated computer systems that tell pilots how the various components are working, McNamara said.

    They can fly up to 120 miles per hour for about 3 hours, according to McManus.

    The choppers were painted to match the police department's new black and gold motor vehicle fleet. As a result, they are now called Eagles instead of Blue Eagles.

    One of the department's four helicopter mechanics designed the color scheme and painted the eagle on the copters. The Eagle team also contains two sergeants and 18 air patrolmen, McManus said.

    The copters were made by the United States subsidiary of Airbus, based in Grand Prairie and were flown on March 28 to San Antonio.

    “These are workhorses that are really going to keep the citizens of San Antonio safe and serve the citizens well,” said Ed Van Winkle, an Airbus representative.


    • #3

      Georgia State Patrol Adds Bell 429 to its Fleet

      Bell Helicopter has announced a purchase agreement with the Georgia State Patrol for a Bell 429 at the Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA) exposition today, in Phoenix, Arizona. The signing ceremony took place in front of the aircraft on display at the Bell Helicopter booth #209.

      “We are excited to add this great aircraft to our fleet,” said Sergeant Greg Mercier of the Georgia State Patrol. “We will rely on the Bell 429 for its power, speed and large, accessible cabins for our parapublic missions.”

      The Georgia State Patrol Aviation Division has operated Bell helicopters since the 1970s with a Bell 47. The unit supports public safety for the citizens of Georgia. Currently, the Georgia State Patrol has a fleet of six Bell 407s, one Bell 206, five Bell OH-58s and one Cessna 182 airplane, and a total of six field hangers located throughout Georgia. The aircraft will be used for a wide array of law enforcement missions, including surveillance, search and rescue and support of ground personnel.

      One of six Georgia State Patrol Bell 407's seen here with pilot David Doehla

      The GSP additionally operate one JetRanger and five Kiowa's

      "This year, we are proud to showcase one of our airborne law enforcement customer’s new Bell 429 as well as have a signing ceremony on site,” said Anthony Moreland, Bell Helicopter's managing director of North America. “The Bell 429 fulfills Georgia State Patrol’s mission needs, and we continue to see a strong customer response throughout North America.”


      • #4

        An OH-6A (Hughes 369) belonging to the Metro Air Support Unit of the St. Louis Police Department lands in Ferguson on 21 st August 2014 during riot control operations

        OH-6A N911EP a seen at her home base inside the Metro Air Support Unit hangar at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport, in Chesterfield Missouri. Also present are two additional OH-6A's and three MD500E's


        • #5

          California Highway Patrol Upgrades to AStar B3e

          Airbus will supply an initial three AS350 B3e AStar helicopters to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) under a new three year contract. The contract, which includes options for up to 15 aircraft, provides for the potential purchase of new AStar helicopters by other state and local government agencies in California.

          The AS350 B3e AStar helicopters will be delivered with an advanced avionics and mission equipment suite to enhance crew safety and law enforcement operational capabilities. This suite includes the Garmin G500H electronic flight information system, FLIR Systems 380HDc thermal imager, Spectrolab XP searchlight and the Churchill Augmented Reality System (ARS) moving map system displayed on an Avalex 15-inch HD monitor.

          The California Highway Patrol will begin receiving B3e variants of the AStar in December

          Each helicopter will also be equipped with a Goodrich 500 pound hoist for rescue missions.

          Ed Van Winkle, sales manager for airborne law enforcement at Airbus Helicopter said: "CHP has been operating Airbus Helicopters products for the past 30 years, starting with an AS350B model in 1984. They have flown more than 130,000 hours with their current fleet of 12 AStars. This order to begin replacement of the fleet demonstrates the high level of trust that CHP has in the AStar to perform their wide range of missions."

          Deliveries will begin in December 2014. Completion services for this contract will be performed by Hangar One Avionics of Carlsbad, California.

          More than 220 Airbus Helicopters AS350 series aircraft are in use with 44 US law enforcement agencies, including the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.


          • #6

            A Day in the Life of Gwinnett County Air Support Unit

            For nearly 40 years, a different kind of police unit has patrolled Gwinnett County.

            Its officers wear jumpsuits, helmets and headsets with microphones angled toward their lips. They hover 500 feet above the earth by day and 1,000 at night, keeping a watchful eye over crime-ridden neighborhoods and assisting officers working on the ground. They can get from the Lawrenceville airport to any edge of the county in less than 10 minutes, even in the worst of rush hour.

            Their unit got started back in 1975, under the leadership of then-chief John Crunkleton.

            “Aviation units were becoming recognized as a valuable tool in law enforcement,” explained Lou Gregoire, Gwinnett police’s current aviation manager. “The agencies that had any area to cover recognized they could cover that distance a lot faster and more safely than in a patrol car. An officer or two in the air in a helicopter can do the work of about five patrol cars.”

            Gwinnett County Police Aviation unit manager, Lou Gregoire, stands with one of the unit’s helicopters at Gwinnett Airport at Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville after returning from duty

            “Our helicopter is able to respond to incidents quickly and provide valuable intelligence, which improves the efficiency and safety of officers on the ground,” said Police Chief Charlie Walters, who has headed Gwinnett police for the last 11 years. “The aviation unit is a vital resource in delivering effective law enforcement services to the citizens of Gwinnett County.”

            Of course, 39 years later, the way those services are delivered has changed a bit.

            The unit began with a few “MASH-type helicopters” and Vietnam War-era pilots. For a few years, they even operated a twin-engine Cessna that was used to pick up prisoners who were wanted in Gwinnett, from other jurisdictions within 500 nautical miles (about 575 road miles).

            Today, two more modern — though still more than 20-year-old — McDonald Douglas helicopters make up the division’s fleet. Constant maintenance and care keeps the aging machines up to the task. The handful of officers assigned to the unit at any given time now are often recreational pilots who are brought over from road duty.

            Gregoire, who flew growing up and served as a mechanic in the United States Air Force, said police work is different at hundreds of feet above the ground, though some of the same principles apply.

            “We don’t have to deal with people. Much more of a support role,” he said. But dealing with crime is “an instinct you develop over years of police work, and it transitions from the police car into the cockpit fairly well.”

            With 430 square miles of territory to cover, the officers assigned to the air get plenty of time to exercise those skills. The unit typically flies every day and night. After dark, two officers are needed, one to fly and watch a screen showing video from night-vision cameras under the chopper, and another to communicate with other units on the radio.

            Normally, Gregoire says, the pilots aid in missing person cases, dangerous warrant service and suspect chases. Not that the officers on the ground can’t handle it — they just can’t see as well.

            “When you see from 500 feet, it’s not like an airplane where the detail is very small; you can see individuals walking their dog, you can see what kind of dog it is,” Gregoire said. “When somebody’s on the ground running from the police, you can see what kind of clothes they’re wearing.”

            The visibility and speed are the two chief factors that make the unit valuable.

            Letting criminals know Gwinnett County PD is watching is also important. The police department’s crime analysis team regularly sends over data on crime trends and “hot areas,” as the aviation manager puts it, and when not out on other calls, the aviation officers patrol those areas.

            “That’s to stop the crimes just by being loitering in the air,” Gregoire said.

            They also sometimes watch over major roadways for driving violations.

            When they spot something abnormal, the aviation officers alert officers on the ground, who go and finish the job.

            To some, the support role could make the workday seem less exciting or fulfilling for the officers hovering overhead than it is for those actually confronting suspects face-to-face and making arrests. But if Gregoire’s attitude is any indication, the unit is just fine working day-in-day-out giving assists to the troops on the ground, never getting the glory. They’re happy to be team players.

            Plus, a helicopter is just a little more interesting than a police cruiser.

            “It’s a magic carpet ride,” Gregoire said. “I can’t believe they let me do this everyday. I tell people I’m one of the five luckiest people in the department. I haven’t had to go to work since I came to aviation.”



            • #7

              LAPD AStar Precautionary Night Landing

              A Los Angeles Police Department AStar has made a precautionary landing Friday night in response to a caution warning light which illuminated on the aircraft's instrument panel. The helicopter made the emergency landing at a South Los Angeles park.

              ​The LAPD AStar (N229LA) which made a precautionary landing in Harvard Park, South Los Angeles, last night

              No one was injured aboard the helicopter, which landed about 8 pm at Harvard Park near the intersection of Western and Gage avenues, said Officer Nuria Vanegas of the LAPD’s Media Relations Section.

              LAPD air units typically carry a pilot and an observer.

              The helicopter was responding to a call at the time of the incident.

              Authorities were investigating the circumstances of the landing, as it was not clear what mechanical issue the vehicle may have experienced.​


              • #8

                South Carolina Buys New MD500

                South Carolina's Law Enforcement Division (SLED) have placed an order for a new MD500E to compliment their existing 500 fleet.

                South Carolina Law Enforcement Division will take delivery of a new MD500 before the end of the year

                The helicopter is expected to arrive and be in use by the end of the year.

                No word on how much the new eye in the sky will cost, but agency spokesman Thom Berry said they were authorized to spend up to $3.5 million.


                • #9

                  Delaware State Police Receive 429's

                  The Delaware State Police have taken delivery of two Bell 429's configured for helicopter emergency services, these being search and rescue and airborne law enforcement operations.

                  Nathaniel McQueen Jr., superintendent of the Delaware St. Police and John Garrison, president and CEO of Bell Helicopter

                  “We are always looking to provide our community with quality, safe service, and these Bell 429s provides us with that,” said Colonel Nathaniel McQueen Jr., superintendent of the Delaware State Police. “We are very excited to begin performing missions with this state-of-the-art, multi-mission aircraft, and look forward to our continued relationship with Bell Helicopter.”

                  The Delaware State Police have been a loyal Bell Helicopter customer for nearly 45 years and were the first law enforcement agency in the world to take delivery of the Bell 407. The police unit currently operates three Bell 407s, a Bell 412 and a fixed-wing Cessna 182.


                  • #10

                    ​Sonoma County Sheriff's Pilot Receives Rescue Award

                    A daring nighttime rescue of nine emergency responders stranded by high tide on ocean cliffs in Del Norte County earned Sonoma County sheriff’s helicopter pilot Paul Bradley recognition as AAA’s Rescuer of the Year on Wednesday.

                    The automotive club gave $10,000 to the nonprofit group Friends of Henry 1, named after the Sheriff’s Office’s Bell 407 aircraft and formed to help raise funds to support the program. The money will be the first installment in a capital campaign to raise $1 million to eventually replace the about 20-year-old helicopter.

                    AAA spokesman Bob Brown said his organization chose to honor Bradley because the helicopter team did not hesitate to launch the mission last year, even though it took them about 250 miles out of their region and was a technically challenging nighttime effort.

                    “We want to honor the rescuers who do this for a living, not for accolades or notoriety,” said Brown, with the club’s Northern California, Nevada and Utah chapter.

                    Sonoma County sheriff's pilot Paul Bradley received the AAA "Rescuer of the Year" award for flying 200 miles to save a stranded group on a cliff near Crescent City

                    The May 24, 2013, incident has had a lasting impact on the paramedics, firefighters and sheriff’s deputy who responded to help an injured woman on Enderts Beach south of Crescent City in what became a much more complicated ordeal that left the rescuers marooned and soaked by ocean waves during high tide on a dangerous rock outcropping as darkness fell.

                    Crescent City Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Dana Reno, reached by phone, said the event “still gets brought up to this day in conversations” and was central to a recent wedding of a Del Norte County sheriff’s deputy and a paramedic who met while stranded and awaiting help.

                    “It was pretty scary because it was cold, the water was still coming in and a couple of us we were starting to show the early signs of hypothermia,” said fellow firefighter Dan Borges, who was among several people wearing T-shirts and no jackets at the time. “I couldn’t stop shivering, I tried to stick my arms down into the (pant) bottoms, but it wasn’t enough. Boy it was sure nice when they called and said there was a helicopter coming in from down south.”

                    The award was given at a short ceremony at the sheriff’s hangar at Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport. It was attended by Sheriff Steve Freitas, Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Rabbitt, AAA staff and others.

                    Freitas spoke to the group, pointing out that the award also honors the team effort of Deputy Chris Mahoney, a tactical flight officer, and paramedic Don Ricci, who both took part in the rescue with Bradley.

                    Freitas told the group that while the rescue was “unique because it was far away, this is the kind of stuff they do every day.”

                    Another Sonoma County rescue: