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The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the Airborne Public Safety Association (APSA), its Board of Directors, staff or membership; nor shall their publication imply endorsement on the part of APSA of any content or claims made therein. APSA disclaims all warranties, express or implied, and makes no judgment regarding the accuracy of posted information. In no event will APSA be liable to any party for any direct, indirect, special or consequential damages resulting from the publication or any subsequent public distribution thereof.



APSA's E-Newsletter is designed to help keep you informed on the very latest information in the airborne law enforcement industry. The E-Newsletter may also be read online here at our website.

Atlanta Police Mourn Loss of Two Officers In Tragic Helicopter Crash

The City of Atlanta Police Department (APD) Air Unit lost two officers in a helicopter crash on November 3. The officers had been called to assist with a search for a missing 9-year-old boy in northwest Atlanta when witnesses said the helicopter lost control and crashed to the ground around 10:30 p.m.

The two officers killed on impact were Officer Richard J. Halford, 48, and Officer Shawn A. Smiley, 40. Halford, an APSA member, had been a pilot with the Air Unit for more than 16 years. Smiley joined the APD in October 2010. He had been with the Air Unit since earlier this year, serving as a tactical flight officer.

The Atlanta Police Department is coordinating assistance and grief counseling to the families of the officers, and the fallen officers' colleagues in APD's Air Unit. Trust funds have been set up to benefit the officers' families through any Wells Fargo bank location. Contributions may be made in the name of the officers.

Chief George Turner and Mayor Kasim Reed expressed appreciation for the brave officers and condolences to the families. "Our hearts and prayers are with the families of Officer Shawn Smiley and Officer Richard Halford on this difficult day in the City of Atlanta," said Mayor Reed. "The entire city stands with the families and the Atlanta Police Department during this time of grief."

"Officer Richard Halford and Officer Shawn Smiley died honorably, serving our citizens and our police force," said Chief Turner. "Every day, they provided air support for our officers, assisting in major events and searches for suspects and missing persons. Their value to our citizens and our officers on the street is incalculable. Last night they made the ultimate sacrifice in those endeavors. Please join us in honoring their valiant legacies and praying for their families and our Department as we grieve their loss."

The accident is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA. "Losing an officer is the most difficult thing a police chief can face," said Chief Turner. "Losing two is an unthinkable tragedy. Our hearts go out to the families of these officers and our thoughts and prayers are with them. This is a difficult day for the APD family and it is a reminder of their bravery and the sacrifices made by our officers every day."

SOURCE: Atlanta Police Department

APSA Member Killed in Helicopter Crash

PhotoDoug Brigham, a retired Pennsylvania State Police trooper and former co-director of the APSA Northeast Region, was killed in a helicopter crash on October 17. Brigham crashed after taking off in a Canadian-registered Eurocopter to pick up passengers for a private shuttle service. Brigham was alone in the aircraft and reportedly directed the crash toward a wooded area to avoid endangering others. Witnesses heard a loud explosion and saw flames. Authorities said the helicopter was destroyed.

Brigham retired at the rank of corporal and was a supervisor of the Pennsylvania State Police Flight Operations. "He is a brother in blue, and everybody…feels like they are Doug's best friend, because that's Doug Brigham," said J.D. Ross, who served with Brigham as a police officer.

Brigham began working as a pilot for the private charter company after his retirement about two years ago and was a member of the volunteer fire company that responded to his crash. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.


PhotoPhotoRichard J. HalfordShawn A. Smiley

NYPD Aviation Unit Active in Hurricane Sandy Rescue Effort

PhotoThe New York Police Department has released video of four rooftop rescues by the NYPD Aviation Unit on Staten Island, where some residents were trapped due to rising waters caused by superstorm Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall on October 30 and flooded significant areas of the Northeast U.S. and beyond. NYPD performed these videoed rescues ( in Helicopter 23, a Bell 412 named for the number of officers killed on Sept. 11, 2001. In one of the rescue videos, an NYPD officer is lowered to a rooftop where a person is lying. The officer huddles over the victim, who eventually sits up. A basket is lowered and the person is hoisted to safety.

SOURCE: Associated Press

California TFO Honored for Rescue

PhotoWest Covina (CA) Police Department Officer Mike Weathermon received the Burn Institute's 2012 Inland Empire Spirit of Courage Award in late September for rescuing an injured pilot and passenger involved in an airplane crash. Weathermon, an APSA member, was the tactical flight officer in an El Monte police helicopter on July 20 when his crew received a distress call from an airplane reporting mechanical problems. The officers saw the plane lose power, fall from the sky and strike power lines before crashing, according to FAA officials. The helicopter's pilot set the aircraft down about 100 yards from the scene of the fiery crash.

"Officer Weathermon quickly responded to the burning wreckage and pulled the pilot and passenger from the plane and escorted them to safety," West Covina police said in a statement. The plane was reported to have burst into flames shortly after Weathermon freed the pilot and passenger. The victims suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries in the crash. "I'm very proud of him," West Covina Police Chief Frank Wills said. "He brought a tremendous credit and distinction to the West Covina Police Department."


Governor Strengthens State's Public Safety Aircraft

PhotoMaryland Governor O'Malley and the Maryland State Police Aviation Division accepted the first of ten $12.6 million AgustaWestland AW139 medevac helicopters at the Aviation Division Headquarters at Martin State Airport last month. APSA Executive Director Steve Ingley represented the Association for the unveiling.

"Public safety is job one for all of us who have the honor to serve the public," Gov. Martin O'Malley said. "The most sacred responsibility any government holds is to protect the lives of its citizens and it is a statewide effort. It involves partnership at every level and no partners are more courageous or more important than our first responders – our firefighters, our paramedics, our local and state police officers. You cannot be expected to do your job alone. You should expect the rest of us to step up and support you with the best equipment, the best technology and the safest equipment that we can possibly obtain. That's why we have chosen to invest $121 million dollars for ten new state-of-the-art helicopters that will replace our current fleet," he continued.

State police officials report the new helicopters won't go into immediate service, because pilots and paramedics need to undergo extensive training. However, they anticipate the helicopters will be deployed in 2013. Nonetheless, this first helicopter will be based in Western Maryland.

The Maryland State Police Aviation Division ordered the helicopters in 2010 and exercised an option for three more in July 2012.


Get On Board: Nominations Open for APSA Leadership Positions

PhotoThe nomination period for APSA elected offices to serve for the term of July 2013 through July 2015 runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. The following offices are open for nomination: President, Chief Financial Officer, Canadian Region Director, Central Region Director and Southeast Region Director. Region directors shall be elected by members residing in their region, and the director must reside in the region he or she is elected to represent.

Nominations must be submitted by regular mail, facsimile or e-mail and addressed to the APSA secretary. Please ensure nominations indicate the name of the nominee, the position for which the person is being nominated and the person making the nomination. Both the person being nominated and the person making the nomination must be current members and in good standing in the APSA. Submissions must be received or postmarked on or before Dec. 15. The ballots will be distributed to members by mail on or about May 1, 2013. The ballots will be counted during the 43rd Annual Conference & Exposition in Orlando, FL, with the results announced at the General Membership Meeting on July 18, 2013.

Send your nominations to: Airborne Public Safety Association, Attn: Secretary Gregg Weitzman, 50 Carroll Creek Way, Suite 260, Frederick, MD 21701, or via email to, or via fax to (301) 631-2466.


Texas DPS Invests in Fixed-Wing Asset

PhotoThe Texas Department of Public Safety Aircraft Section recently purchased a $7.4 million Pilatus PC-12 NG Spectre high altitude surveillance aircraft. The airplane comes equipped with an estimated $1 million in surveillance cameras with high-resolution and thermal imaging capabilities as well as a downlink system and four sets of NVGs. The aircraft is reportedly in the process of being modified and will be delivered early next year. Texas state police spokesman Tom Vinger said it would be used primarily to patrol the Mexican border and "serve as a tool in assisting specific joint operations that are clearly defined by area and duration."


Detroit Police Department to Receive Surplus Helicopter

PhotoThe Detroit (MI) Police Department Aviation Unit will receive a U.S. military 1970 Bell OH-58C helicopter soon, after nearly a decade of pursuing a surplus aircraft. The aircraft will arrive in Detroit following minor repairs, which will allow the department to restart an aviation program it had dissolved years ago. The unit has been utilizing a state police helicopter kept in a Detroit Police Department hangar since 2008 and employs two pilots who fly two daily operations.

The aircraft comes free of charge from the Military Support to Civil Authorities but is forecast to cost the department more than $500,000 over the next three years in insurance, fuel, maintenance technicians, a rotor and engine overhaul and transport fees.


South Carolina Police Helicopter Assists in Suicide Victim Rescue

PhotoAn Aiken County (SC) Sheriff's Office Aviation Division helicopter was instrumental in the rescue of an individual attempting suicide this summer. According to a statement by the department, 15 ground units requested aircraft assistance, reporting a man had threatened to kill himself, cut his wrists and arm, and run into the woods adjacent to his residence, a heavily wooded, rural area. Aviation Division Staff Sergeant Larry Schrade took off from Aiken Municipal Airport approximately 20 minutes later and was above the incident in about six minutes.

After doing a preliminary aerial survey of the immediate area, APSA member Schrade started an expanding search pattern in the direction the subject reportedly ran. After working the search pattern for one hour out to about 10 miles from the incident location, Schrade returned to the original location and performed the search again. He soon observed a white male sitting in a deer tree stand approximately 400 yards from the residence.

After making several low altitude passes over the subject to confirm his identity, Schrade radioed ground crews with the subject's location. The aircraft directed ground forces to the subject and remained overhead while he was talked down. According to Captain Troy Elwell, on-scene commander for the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, the aircraft was instrumental in saving the life of the man. Elwell said he was bleeding heavily and believed the wounds would have eventually killed him.


Man Sentenced 25 Years for Shooting LAPD Aircraft

PhotoA 20-year-old man recently was sentenced to 25 years in prison for shooting a Los Angeles (CA) Police Department helicopter in the fuel tank and forcing an emergency landing in April 2011. The man pled no contest to two counts of assault on a peace officer with a semiautomatic firearm in early October and was sentenced.

At the time of the shooting, the LAPD aircraft was responding to a call, and investigators were quickly able to determine where the shot came from. No one was injured in the incident. In exchange for his plea of no contest, prosecutors dropped charges against him of attempted murder of a peace officer, shooting at an occupied aircraft and carrying a loaded firearm as part of a street gang.


Arizona Police Helicopter Assists in Deadly Chase

PhotoA Phoenix (AZ) Police Department (PPD) helicopter assisted in a chase in late September that resulted in the suicide of a wanted felon with a long criminal history. The 33-year-old man reportedly stole a car at gunpoint, shot at police officers and led them on a chase that ended with his suicide inadvertently broadcast on national television.

The officers pulled back when the man began running red lights and endangering the public. At that point, PPD's helicopter and unmarked cars were used to follow the vehicle at a distance. During the chase, the man drove at speeds in excess of 100 mph and opened fire on officers, hitting one patrol car, and then fired at the police helicopter but didn't hit it. The man exited the interstate and drove into the surrounding desert. He eventually stopped, got out of the car and began walking down a dirt road. An officer's shot at him appeared to have missed, but television footage showed the man falling down and feeling his torso before walking into brush. That's when he shot himself in the head.

"Anybody who will shoot at police officers—that shows a total disregard for them—will shoot at anybody else," police spokesman Sergeant Thompson said in a news report. "And this needed to be put to an end. Even after we backed out all the marked units, he still continued to go."


Japan National Police Agency Orders Two More AW139s

PhotoThe Japan National Police Agency (JNPA) has ordered two AgustaWestland AW139 medium twin helicopters that will go into service in 2014. JNPA will use the aircraft to perform multi-role law enforcement missions. The latest order brings the number of medium twin-engine AW139 helicopters ordered for Japanese law enforcement customers to 11, according to a statement by AgustaWestland.

The airframe was selected by the JNPA after an evaluation to ensure it could meet its mission and safety requirements. The latest acquisition comes on the heels of a JNPA order of two AgustaWestland GrandNew helicopters.


DHS to Evaluate Small UAS for Emergency Response

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin testing and evaluating small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) this month near Lawton, OK, under a federal and state initiative to study UAS applications for emergency response. The DHS is also considering the use of small UAS by its constituent organizations, the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

PhotoJohn Appleby, Senior Director with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, outlined the department's Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) program recently. The program is expected to focus on "possible applications for first responders, including search and rescue scenarios, response to radiological and chemical incidents and fire response and mapping." At present, public agencies cannot operate UAS in U.S. unrestricted airspace without certificates of authorization issued by FAA. Appleby said the DHS is closely tracking the administration's progress toward drafting a sUAS rule that would provide a regulatory framework for operating small unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds in unrestricted airspace.


HAI's Salute To Excellence Award Entries Wanted

PhotoNominations for the 2013 Helicopter Association International (HAI) Salute to Excellence Awards program, to be held on March 6 during HELI-EXPO 2013 in Las Vegas, are being accepted from now until Nov. 16. The awards are given in nine categories that reflect the breadth of missions, roles and services performed by helicopters and those involved with their operation. The MD Helicopters Law Enforcement Award specifically recognizes an individual or organization that has contributed to the promotion and advancement of helicopters in support of law enforcement activities. Nominees are not limited to pilots or law enforcement personnel.

For more information on the Salute to Excellence Awards and the nominations process, contact HAI at 703-683-4646 or visit


Texas Man Arrested for Shining Bright Light at Helicopter

PhotoA man faces a misdemeanor charge after shining a spotlight on a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter in early October. The man temporarily blinded the NVG-equipped aircrew, creating what a police spokesperson called a dangerous situation. He was released from jail after posting a $2,000 bond on a misdemeanor charge of illumination of aircraft by intense light.

The Texas Department of Public Safety crew was on a patrol when the spotlight came on, the police spokesperson said. The man told officers he shined the spotlight on the helicopter because it was "aggravating." The pilot and co-pilot were temporarily blinded but recovered and aimed a spotlight at the culprit's home so ground crews could locate and arrest him. Illumination of aircraft by intense light is a Class C misdemeanor, unless the light impairs the pilot's ability to operate an aircraft, in which case it can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor, according to the Texas Penal Code.


California Sheriff's Aircraft Rescues Fallen Climber

PhotoA Butte County (CA) Sheriff's Office helicopter was used to airlift a woman to safety in late October after she had fallen from a sheer cliff. The 26-year-old woman's boyfriend broke her 20-foot fall while the two were out climbing, but she lost consciousness for 10-15 seconds after impact. The woman's injuries were critical, and a helicopter was called in to lift her to safety. Firefighters put the woman in a Stokes litter and attached it to the Butte County Sheriff's Office helicopter. "That posed a challenge," a police spokesman said. "In order to get the helicopter close enough, you worry about the rotor blades next to the canyon walls. It's gratifying to know we have those skills to perform a rescue that's potentially life-saving."


Coast Guard Aircraft Helps Recover Illegal Drugs

PhotoA U.S. Coast Guard frigate and Sikorsky SH-60B helicopter employed airborne use of force on Oct. 25 to apprehend suspects transporting cocaine. While conducting a routine patrol, the SH-60B identified a fast moving speedboat and closed in to investigate. The boat attempted to escape, and the SH-60B's gunner was forced to fire disabling rounds that stopped the craft. The U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) team then launched an inflatable boat and boarded the speedboat. They recovered 1,719 pounds of the illegal drug with a wholesale value of $15.6 million.

Since the beginning of the team's deployment in June, LEDET has seized approximately 3,906 pounds of cocaine and 4,134 pounds of marijuana, with a combined wholesale value of more than $39 million.



PhotoSafety Seminar in San Antonio – Starts Next Week!

The San Antonio (TX) Police Department Helicopter Detail "Blue Eagle" will be the host of this year's Central Region Safety Seminar, Nov. 13-15. Don't miss it! Among the educational topics are airborne smuggling trends, surviving an in-flight emergency, SAR air-to-ground coordination, sleep deprivation/fatigue and safety management.

The host hotel is the Holiday Inn San Antonio Riverwalk with a special APSA room rate. Book now by calling 210-272-1526. To register for the seminar, which also includes networking activities, visit


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