2004 Buyer's Guide

Avoiding Accessory Installation 
Conflicts In Acquisitions

Federal Excess Property And 
Purchasing Programs For Law Enforcement And Other First Responders

From Statistics To Grants: 
How To Use A Federal Clearinghouse 
Of Information

How To Develop Bid Specifications 
for Purchases

Lease vs. Purchase: 
Getting The Aircraft You Need

Avoiding Accessory Installation Conflicts In Acquisitions

By Scott Holst
Paravion Technology, Inc.

It’s a common story --- your agency just installed a searchlight and air conditioning system six months ago, and now, you finally have the additional funding for an infrared system with monitors and recorder. There is a problem, however, because the entire aircraft must be reconfigured, including buying a new mount for the searchlight, so it does not interfere with the IR camera. As you look further, there is no location for the monitor mounts because the outlets for the air conditioner interfere with the proper installation location. How could this happen? The items previously bought are useless or will not allow for the modification of new equipment.
One particular issue is the mistake of consuming needed space for monitor mounts, pedal extensions, and other popular law enforcement accessories by installing an air conditioning system that steals this needed space. The outlets and oversized evaporators of some air conditioning systems are just not configured to work with other must-have items for officers in the air.

Other common conflicts in accessories are searchlights and IR systems. This is nothing new considering most agencies must buy and install one unit first, and install the other later as funds allow. It’s not hard to recognize the problem of having a 1600-watt, 30-million candle power light located near a sensitive camera system. Many agencies choose to install the camera system in the forward position, while keeping the searchlight more to the aft of the aircraft. This configuration will keep a safe distance between these two highly-valued weapons on law enforcement aircraft. 
Researching the available mounts for your aircraft and mapping out your locations ahead of time will help to eliminate reconfiguration problems as you add future equipment. Another common mistake is not reviewing the limitations associated with many accessories. These limitations, such as airspeed, can make a big difference in the usability of your aircraft. You should also consider with certain accessories if the kit requires a mechanic to perform basic functions, or will it allow the pilot to make minor adjustments? Many kits are appealing in their ability to allow adjustability or quick removal and install. But, if this requires a mechanic and a wrench, then the purpose is defeated. Well thought out kits will allow for a pilot to perform basic functions as needed. A good example of this is the camera mounts that give the pilot the ability to quickly remove the gimbal for transit flights or other reasons.

The ability to have mounting provisions that will allow for quick removal or swapping of camera or searchlight components between multiple aircraft is rarely thought of before an integration starts. These types of mounting provisions do exist and will allow trading of components even between rotorcraft and fixed wing aircraft. This idea was pioneered early in the days of mounting modifications as many law enforcement agencies did not have the funds for multiple camera or searchlight systems. Finding experienced mount manufacturers that offer a wide variety of aircraft mounts will help to get your aviation agency efficiently configured.

The solution for avoiding many of these headaches, giving you peace of mind when spending those allocated funds, is easy. The first thing to consider is recording all of the projected accessories that may at any time be needed for the aircraft, whether you currently have the funding or not. 
The next step is to contact a reputable accessory and completion center that will offer you the service of a one-on-one strategy and sharing of intellectual knowledge, whether it is their products or not. Believe it or not, there are a few of these companies that will not only help you spend your money, but also offer their quality experience and expertise on integration of accessories.

There are many companies in the aviation industry that make accessories, but if they focus on making one type of product, they rarely have the ability to consider if this product interferes with the many other items that you will need for your aircraft. Most accessory manufacturers that make a mixture of types of products such as air conditioning systems, IR mounts, monitor mounts, pedal extensions, and other items, will strive to develop these products to have no conflicts when installing numerous kits on a the same aircraft.

This means your agency can get it done right the first time. Nobody will have to juggle finding extra funds for mistakes that were made that now require reconfiguration of the aircraft.

Federal Excess Property And Purchasing Programs 
For Law Enforcement And Other First Responders

By William E. LeGro

As local, county and state governments struggle in this “era of diminished budgets” to fund their aviation law enforcement and other first responder agencies, threats to public safety have increased. Consequently, the federal programs that offer the opportunity to obtain law enforcement equipment at reduced costs have become more attractive.

The president of the National Law Enforcement Support Association, which represents the state officials who manage these programs, recently made his point to all governors. In a letter to each, he advised them to look into how the programs are handled in their states and to see that the maximum benefits were being derived. The fact is that fewer than half of the states have adequate, full time staff involved in assisting law enforcement to acquire excess equipment or to purchase new equipment and technologies from federal sources.

Recent events have made it more difficult to navigate the excess property field without a trained and dedicated staff at the state capitol. Inconsistencies and discrepancies in record keeping have compelled the Law Enforcement Support Office, which manages the program for the Defense Logistics Agency, to institute more precise controls over the transfer process and accountability. The continuing reduction in the number of Defense Reutilization and Marketing Offices, the increasing reliance on transferring property without moving it to a DRMO, and electronic screening of property, make it imperative that a qualified, full time state coordinator and staff assist law enforcement agencies. Only in this way can law enforcement agencies derive the full benefits from this program.

The law enforcement excess property program, called “LESO” or “1033,” has been of significant benefit to aviation law enforcement across the country. It has saved taxpayers millions of dollars by keeping in public service aircraft purchased for national defense, but no longer needed for that purpose.

The availability of excess U.S. Army aircraft enabled many jurisdictions to establish flight operations that they could not have otherwise afforded. These law enforcement aviation units have proven their worth to their communities, and as the old Army birds wear out, they are being replaced with state-of-the-art, commercially purchased helicopters.

Among law enforcement agencies who fly, many have extracted the most dollar-value from these programs. However, they still need the help of the State 1033 Coordinator to acquire excess equipment and the 1122 State Point-of-Contact (SPOC) in order to purchase. Since 1989, law enforcement aviation units have obtained excess helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, parts, ground support equipment, flight suits, and many other operational and maintenance items at little or no cost.

Speaking of helicopters, 596 U.S. Army OH-58s have been transferred, free, to law enforcement agencies since 1994. There are still 458 of these helicopters in the Army inventory, and some of them will eventually be available law to enforcement. While few parts are now available as excess, parts may still be purchased at substantial savings through the SPOC from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, and from the Defense Supply Center in Richmond. The Army and Defense Logistics Agency will continue to be sources of parts until the U.S. Army finally retires the OH-58 from service, probably in 2007. The Army UH-1s will also be retired at about the same time.

Purchases from commercial vendors who have contracts with the General Services Administration, Federal Supply Service, far exceed the amount purchased from defense sources. State and local agencies may buy only from vendors listed on a limited number of GSA schedules, and the law enforcement equipment purchased must be suitable for counter-drug activities. In practice, virtually any product that is used by law enforcement is considered suitable for counter-drug activity.

This mildly restrictive situation may change in the near future. The Congress, in its passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, included a section titled “Federal Support for Enhancement of State and Local Anti-Terrorism Response Capabilities.” This section directs the president to appoint a “designated Federal procurement official” to “produce and maintain a catalog of anti-terrorism technologies and anti-terrorism services suitable for procurement by States and units of local government” and to establish procedures through which purchases can be made. This provision closely resembles the 1122 program, but does not involve the Department of Defense. As in the 1122 program, vendors with federal contracts are not compelled to sell to state and local governments, but participating vendors will offer the state and local agencies their federal contract prices.

The advantages to law enforcement agencies are that time and costs are reduced through the elimination of the bidding process, and that federal prices are generally significantly below market prices. Furthermore, a larger universe of supplies and equipment will be offered to law enforcement and to other first responders than is currently available in the 1122 program. As of this writing, details on how the program will be carried out are not available.

Another source of federal equipment that is sometimes overlooked by state and local procurement officials is the state agency for surplus property. Every state and territory has had one of these agencies for more than 50 years. They serve as agents for the General Services Administration in the donation of a wide variety of surplus federal personal property to state and local governments. Many police and fire departments receive from their state agencies items such as automobiles, trucks, furniture, blankets, light sets, pumps, portable generators, and other essential equipment and supplies, paying only nominal service charges.

It is possible, but by no means certain, that the state agencies for surplus property may be charged with the responsibility of administering an excess property program for fire and emergency medical services agencies authorized by Congress three years ago, but never implemented. This program, similar to the 1033 program for law enforcement, would permit the Department of Defense to transfer to fire departments excess defense equipment suitable for the complete range of fire fighting and ambulance services. Currently, the access of fire departments to excess defense property is limited to equipment used for support of law enforcement counter-drug activities.
In summary, there are federal programs are out there and each of them can save your agency money. None of them involve excessively complicated processes, only someone to do the work.

For more information on these programs, see the following web sites:

From Statistics To Grants: 
How To Use A Federal Clearinghouse Of Information

by Mary Jo Giovacchini and 
Jonathan Witte
National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS)

For more than thirty years, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) has provided criminal justice professionals, policymakers, and practitioners with information on criminal justice, law enforcement and drug policy. Today, NCJRS is one of the largest criminal justice information networks in the world. A federally sponsored clearinghouse, NCJRS offers a variety of services and resources, including access to funding and grant activities.

Each year, a number of grants are made available by the federal agencies that sponsor NCJRS. Because these grants vary in scope, project period, and cash award, understanding how they work is a key step in successfully applying for them. NCJRS can keep potential applicants informed about which grants are currently available.

Grants and Funding Opportunities

Learn about funding opportunities currently available from the Office of Justice Programs and other Federal agencies by visiting the Grants and Funding section of the NCJRS Web site (www.ncjrs.org/fedgrant.html). From there, you can link to other resources such as the Federal Register and Catalog of Domestic Federal Assistance to learn about future funding activities. The Grants and Funding section also explains the three types of funding (formula, discretionary, and congressional) most often available to state, local, and private agencies and organizations.

Database of Information

With holdings from the early 1970s to the present, the NCJRS abstracts collection contains more than 180,000 summaries of publications, reports, articles, and audio-visual products. With easy-to-use keyword and index term searches, you can retrieve all the citations relevant to a particular query or area of interest. The database is indexed using the National Criminal Justice Thesaurus, which contains more than 5,000 subject, geographic, and organizational index terms and 30,000 cross-references.

You can access the database in three ways: online at www.ncjrs.org to search the database; on DIALOG, an international electronic information retrieval service; and by contacting NCJRS, whose staff can conduct searches tailored to specific needs.

Whether you know exactly what you’re looking for or whether you want to browse through helpful publication summaries and information, the online store is open whenever you want to shop. Order the products you want, day or night, atwww.puborder.ncjrs.org. Publications of all sorts including topical, seminal, hard to find are available free of charge or at minimal cost.

Share Your Knowledge

To provide the best resources possible, NCJRS relies on the feedback of the professionals who use its services. NCJRS values this two-way partnership. Your suggestions and assistance are always welcome.

We encourage you to send copies of publications, training curriculums, video tapes, and other information resources. Once your materials are added to the NCJRS library and database, they will be available to justice and drug control policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and the public worldwide.

Contact NCJRS


  • 800-851-3420 or 301-519-5500
  • TTY service for the hearing impaired: 877-712-9279 (toll free)


P.O. Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000

How To Develop Bid Specifications for Purchases

By Donald Roby

The APSA Buyer’s Guide is a great opportunity to discuss budgeting and purchasing. In many aviation units, the job of “budget officer” is routinely given to a line officer and not the unit manager. Although the unit manager may have the ultimate responsibility for all fiscal matters, the duties probably belong to a pilot or observer. This job will not only include making sure that invoices are submitted and paid, but projecting maintenance needs, overhaul needs, fuel and oil needs and developing bid specifications for purchases. All of these issues are important, but for this article, we will focus on developing bid specifications for purchases.

Once an aviation unit has decided to purchase new equipment, the task then turns to developing bid specifications. To do this, you need to do your homework. The first task to complete is a “needs assessment” for the equipment that you are about to purchase.

This is a relatively easy task and involves making a list of performance criteria, standard equipment, optional equipment and other pertinent needs. Once the list is established, a simple checklist can be used to identify the products that meet your needs. Then, a qualified list of vendors can be developed. In addition, the needs assessment also is a great starting point to develop your bid specifications.

Now that we have developed a needs assessment, let’s take a look at what is needed in a comprehensive bid specification. The product that you are going to purchase must be safe, tested and proven, as well as meet the mission objectives of the unit and have an acceptable service life. To accomplish this, your bid specifications must be written in a precise manner. They must be concise and to the point. In addition, the bid specifications must be defensible in the event a vendor wishes to protest the specifications or the process. Therefore, they must be relevant to the defined mission and objectives of the unit and what was defined in the needs assessment.

The key to writing bid specifications is thoroughness. The bid specification must contain a statement that defines exactly what the bid is for. An example of this is “The ABC Police Department intends to purchase three (3) turbine powered helicopters”. This statement clearly states that the police department wants to purchase three helicopters. The bid specifications must also define what performance criteria the equipment must meet. An example of this is “The aircraft must be able to maintain a forward airspeed of 120 knots with a full load of fuel, three aircrew members and full law enforcement mission equipment installed”. Other performance criteria are maximum gross weight limits, cabin space, FADEC engine, composite components, etc.

If a vendor submits a bid for an aircraft that cannot meet these minimum performance criteria, then it is grounds for dismissal or rejection of the bid.

Many times, you are purchasing equipment that will include various options. In these instances, you must state exactly what options you want, and where and how the options are to be installed. If you are purchasing an aircraft, don’t state that you want an infrared camera installed on it. State exactly what brand you want, what model number it is and where you want it installed. Also, you need to state that the installation of the equipment will include a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) or an FAA Form 337 field approval for the installation of the equipment. In addition, it is always a good idea to stipulate what type of mounting equipment the infrared camera is going to be installed on. This general rule of thumb applies to search lights, avionics, ancillary items, and others. Never assume that a vendor knows what you want. You need to tell them exactly what you want in your bid specifications. This way you can hold the vendor accountable for complying with the bid specifications.

Another issue that you need to consider is product updates, support and warranties. If you are going to purchase a multi-million dollar aircraft, you need to assure that not only are the Airworthiness Directives complied with, but the “mandatory technical bulletins” are also complied with. Some of these maintenance requirements can be extremely expensive and time consuming for a law enforcement agency.

Most warranties that come with equipment are very good. However, you may be able to stipulate in your bid specifications additional time lines to extend the warranty on the product that you are about to purchase. An example of this is to mandate that the product have a three-year warranty, instead of a two-year warranty. By extending the length of the warranty, you are buying protection and piece of mind. When developing and specifying warranties, please remember to be realistic. Don’t ask for a 10-year warranty on an item when vendors only offer a one-year warranty on the item. You may be able to get a two- to three-year warranty, but not a 10-year warranty.

One of the worst things that can happen to any police agency is that they set out to purchase a specific item and end up with something that they do not want and something that does not meet the needs of the unit. This has happened time and time again in our industry and, as the preparer of the bids, you must make sure that it doesn’t happen to you. One way to do this is to meet other members of your unit and have them review your bid specs and make suggestions for improvement. This does two things: it allows another set of trained eyes to review the bids for accuracy and relevancy and it allows the other unit members to feel part of the purchase process.

Another way to assure success in the bid process is to meet with your purchasing agent long before your bids are released to the vendors. At this meeting, you need to state to the purchaser exactly what it is you want to acquire, why you need this, and exactly what your agency is going to do with the equipment. You should also conduct some sort of presentation with the purchaser to articulate how you came about developing your needs assessment and narrowing the list of qualified products. This will allow the purchaser to know exactly what you are attempting to purchase and he/she can work with you to purchase the right product.

Remember, in our field of work, you are the expert in aviation, not the purchaser. Therefore, you need to work to educate them in what your unit’s mission is and what you need to accomplish it. 
When your bid specifications are complete, there are several things that must be done to assure a successful purchasing process. The first thing is to make sure that the purchaser is going to schedule and hold a “pre-bid” conference early in the bid process. This is an excellent opportunity for all of the potential bidders, the purchaser, and you to meet and discuss any discrepancies or exceptions that may exist in the bids.

At this meeting, a vendor may identify an issue that can potentially derail your purchase. An example of this may be the inclusion of performance criteria that none of the vendors can meet, or only one vendor can meet. Once the discrepancies are identified and articulated, it will be up to the purchaser to decide if the bid specification needs to be amended or that the exception is without merit and the bids will remain unchanged. It is always a good idea to insert language in the bid specifications that the police department or jurisdiction has final say in all matters. This way, the agency controls the purchase process, not the vendors.

If you are purchasing aircraft, you need to remember to include in your bid specifications the right to inspect the aircraft during the completion process at the completion center or factory. This allows you the opportunity to track the completion process as it progresses. It also allows you the opportunity to catch mistakes such as installation of incorrect equipment, placement of equipment in the wrong place, and to identify quality of workmanship early in the process.

If a vendor will not allow this, get another vendor. However, I think you will find that almost every completion center, including the manufacturers, want you to be involved in the completion process. This way, you will be part of the completion team and a satisfied customer.

One question that is constantly asked is, “Should I write my bids to meet a particular item or brand of equipment”? This is a difficult question to answer. However, if you are setting out to buy a specific item and you have conducted a thorough evaluation of products that meet your mission needs, performance criteria, and costs, and you can defend your results, the answer is yes. If there is only one product that meets your needs, and you can defend this, you may want to consider a “sole-source” contract to the vendor. This takes the place of a competitive bid, and awards the purchase contract to the only vendor that has a product that meets the minimum selection criteria.

If you cannot defend your needs assessment, or there are multiple products that meet the minimum selection criteria, then you will need to conduct a competitive bid process. As always, confer with your purchasing agent to ascertain what route you will need to take.

Finally, the last thing that should be addressed regarding the bid process is the issue of process integrity. Once bid specifications have been released to potential bidders, no one should interfere in any way with the process. Contact with potential bidders should be avoided. If a bidder contacts you for information or clarification, you should immediately direct them to the purchaser. In addition, you should document the contact on a correspondence to your superior officer and articulate exactly what transpired. It is also important that there are no conflicts of interest as you go through the purchase process. If a vendor calls you and asks you to lunch or dinner, explain to them that it is inappropriate for you to do this and ask them not to do this again. Again, report this to your superior officer immediately.

If the integrity of the purchase process is compromised in anyway, it will more than likely lead to the entire process being thrown out. This will lead to delays in the purchase, additional expenses, and possibly departmental charges (or criminal charges) being filed against the violator.

As always, the opportunity to purchase equipment is an exciting time in any unit. The purchase process can also be very stressful. By taking your time and conducting thorough research, you can reduce the stress of purchasing new equipment. Well written bid specifications make purchasing equipment a very smooth and easy process.

About the author: Don Roby is a Captain with the Baltimore County Police Department. He has written several articles for Air Beat concerning public aircraft and aviation unit management. Don is an instructor for APSA’s Unit Manager’s Course and other courses at the National Conference and Regional Safety Seminars.

Lease vs. Purchase: Getting The Aircraft You Need

by Jacob Allen
GE Capital Public Finance, Inc.

Current economic conditions combined with limited budgets make the acquisition or upgrade of aircraft difficult for most law enforcement agencies. This is unfortunate, especially when the need for these vital tools is at an all time high.

Most jurisdictions need to provide increasing levels of service, while operating with decreasing levels of funding. As bad as it may seem, there are several options available to those who are looking to acquire aircraft to support their missions. Financing and leasing are both excellent tools that can help manage a tight budget and enable the agency to acquire the aircraft they need.

Like any procurement, outlining and clearly communicating your goals to your potential lenders is paramount. Approach potential vendors and lenders in an effort to establish a partnership. Look for lenders who have extensive experience with aircraft financing as well as the procurement processes of governmental entities. There are several financing sources that understand how to finance aircraft. However, the challenge will be navigating the market and finding the best structure for your agency.

Consider these questions before you even start shopping:

  • Do you want to ultimately own the aircraft? Or, do you want to use it for a period of time and then return it for an upgrade after a few years?
  • Are you trading or selling any existing aircraft? How much can you afford to pay per year?
  • Could your current maintenance costs be redirected toward an annual lease payment for a new aircraft?

With these questions addressed, you will be better prepared to determine which options are best for you. The following financing mechanisms are readily available to help you acquire the aircraft you need. Keep in mind that the following options are not exhaustive, and a good lender will work with you to tailor a solution that best meets your specific needs and requirements.

Lease-Purchase Financing

This is essentially a loan. The lender pays your vendor for the aircraft and then you make payments directly to the lender. You pay for the aircraft over time and own it for one dollar at the end of the term. Another variation of this is to structure a balloon payment at the end of the term. This balloon payment could be equal to what a vendor would offer you for a trade at the end of the term. Often, vendors will offer you a guaranteed buy-back.

There are many advantages to this arrangement. Interest payments are tax-exempt, similar to bond rates. Upfront fees are typically very low, usually less than $1,000 and often there are none.

Aircraft can be amortized over a 12-year period. Most lease-purchase arrangements include an annual appropriation clause in the contact. This means that the financing is not considered debt, voter approval is not required, and existing debt capacity is not used.

True Lease

This allows you to use the equipment for a period of time and then return it with no further obligation at the end of the lease.

Advantages to this structure are that your payments will be lower and the lessor is the owner of the aircraft throughout the term. The downside is that you are not building any equity in the aircraft.

Master Lease Agreement

Many states, cities, and counties already have a lease agreement in place that may allow you to simply “add on” to this existing contract. Although your requests will still need lender approval, this is generally a much smoother process since you are already an existing customer.

The downside of using an existing master lease agreement is that it may not include terms and conditions that are specific to the financing of aircraft. Additionally, the lender may not have the expertise to effectively complete the lease.

Vendor Financing

The aircraft manufacturer may be able to offer financing. Often, these vendors have special offers such as lower interest rates, trade-in promotions, or guaranteed buy-backs. Many agencies view this as advantageous because the financing costs are essentially “bundled” with the price of the aircraft in a single procurement.

Most of the aforementioned options are available with either a fixed or variable interest rate. However, the master lease agreement is an exception since the interest rate has been established prior to signing the lease. The same principles that apply to your home mortgage apply here.

Fixing the rate means that your rate and, thus, your payments are the same throughout the term of the contract. Variable or floating rates allow you to take advantage of low interest rates and lower payments. Generally, prepayment premiums or penalties are low and many lessors will offer the option to “lock in” or fix your rate at a later date when, or if, the rates begin to rise.

Every year law enforcement agencies are able to acquire the aircraft they need even during trying financial times. One such instance is the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff’s Department’s Aero Bureau provides vital support to all law enforcement missions as a true force-multiplier.

When the department needed to upgrade their fleet with 12 new American Eurocopter AS350B2 “ASTARs,” GE Public Finance was pleased to assist. The county has a 40-year history of operating aircraft. They also currently operate and maintain dozens of aircraft to support law enforcement, fire and search & rescue missions. With such a well-established infrastructure to support their fleet, the county understood that ultimate ownership of the aircraft was in their best interest. To fit the upgrades into their budgeting cycle, they chose to stagger their purchases over a two-year period by splitting the purchases into two rounds of six helicopters per round. By exercising the lease-purchase option, the county is able to take advantage of the tax-exempt interest payments over the six-year terms of the two contracts.

So, whether this is your first helicopter or your fifteenth, defining your goals and communicating your requirement to an experienced lending partner will put you well on your way to procuring the aircraft that you need.