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.
California Man Gets 14 Years for Lasing Police Chopper
A Central California man convicted of pointing a laser at a police helicopter was sentenced on March 10 to spend 14 years in federal prison. Prosecutors believe the term is one of the region's longest for such a crime.
The 26-year-old man was accused of pointing a green laser 13 times more powerful than common pointers at a Fresno (CA) Police Department Air Support Unit helicopter in 2012. The helicopter had been called to an apartment complex, where prosecutors said the assailant purposely aimed his laser at police.
"This is not a game," U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said in a statement. "It is dangerous, and it is a felony." The jury in the trial found the man guilty of attempting to interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft and aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill of Fresno described the man as a "walking crime spree" and said he carried out an act with deadly potential.
Los Angeles Noise Law Likely to Apply to Public Helicopters
In the wake of a long-running debate, law enforcement helicopters are not likely to receive the exemption the industry expected from a Los Angeles noise abatement law. The Professional Helicopter Pilots Association, APSA, FAA, and a group of homeowner associations that form the Los Angeles Area Helicopter Noise Coalition had struggled to reach a compromise on the noise issue that would allow airborne law enforcement units to continue to do business as usual. Now, it appears a congressional mandate will put the noise abatement law into place and implicate public helicopters along with private parties.
The blueprint for what is likely to happen in California comes from a deal cut between former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to establish a mandatory North Shore Route for helicopters over New York's Long Island. Now, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have inserted language into the California state legislature's omnibus that compels FAA to develop mandatory noise-mitigation rules and routes for helicopters operating in the Los Angeles area within one year if voluntary measures do not reduce noise complaints. It does not spell out an acceptable level of complaint or any means of measurement.
FAA started bringing stakeholders together on the noise issue in 2012 through its Los Angeles Helicopter Noise Initiative after seven members of California's congressional delegation complained to LaHood, then U.S. Secretary of Transportation. FAA issued a preliminary report on the situation last May, noting the complexities the area's airspace congestion brings to the task.
Founder of AeroComputers Mark Gassaway Dies
Mark Gassaway, founder and president of moving map systems provider AeroComputers, died on March 17. Gassaway is said to have had two passions in his lifeâ€”aviation and engineeringâ€”that led to the creation of AeroComputers in the early 1990s. The company, which provides equipment primarily used in airborne law enforcement platforms, was founded before widespread availability of GPS devices or digital maps and started with scanning and hand-stitching paper maps commonly used at the time. Since then, APSA corporate member AeroComputers has grown to serve airborne law enforcement agencies around the globe.
A celebration of Gassaway's life is to be held at 2 pm on April 6 at the Commemorative Air Force Museum, 445 Aviation Drive, Camarillo, CA 93010.
Fort Worth Police Relocating Helicopters
The Fort Worth (TX) Police Department expects to break ground on a new home for its helicopters at Fort Worth Meacham International Airport very soon. The department currently keeps its helicopters at its training facility near downtown Fort Worth.
The new hangar will have increased aircraft capacity and allow the department to expand its air support fleet, according to Bill Welstead, director of Fort Worth's airport system. "The new facility is truly going to allow [the department] to meet their demands within this growing city," he said. The police hangar is one of several construction projects planned. Welstead recently outlined multimillion-dollar projects to improve taxiways, runway aprons and a perimeter road for fuel trucks, and the airport will also replace 30-year-old asphalt on a runway apron using $2.3 million in federal funding.
APSA Awards, Scholarships Deadline Fast Approaching
The submission deadline for the 2014 APSA awards and scholarships is less than one month away. Applications and nominations must be received by May 1; here's the link http://archives.alea.org/areas/awards for submissions. APSA scholarship applicants are considered for all scholarships for which they may be eligible, and only one application is required. The names of the award winners and scholarship recipients will be announced at APSA EXPO 2014 in Phoenix, AZ on July 18.
Australia Police Seize More Than $3.2 Million in Marijuana Plants
The New South Wales (Australia) Police Force recently seized more than $3.2 million in cannabis in the Coffs/Clarence area during a weeklong drug eradication search. The search, which utilized a helicopter, ground officers and police dogs, was part of the department's annual Cannabis Eradication Program, an operation run by the State Crime Command's Drug Squad Cannabis Team and the Coffs Clarence Local Area Command. The search had assistance of the Police Aviation Support Branch, Police Wireless Network Services and the State Protection Group dog squad.
The operation reportedly netted about 1,700 plants with a potential street value of more than $3.2 million and resulted in the arrests of three people. Police allege one man had 98 cannabis plants growing on his property. A further search of the property allegedly uncovered almost 15 pounds of dried marijuana, three unlicensed firearms and materials used in the growth and supply of cannabis. The man was charged with cultivation, supply and possession of a prohibited drug and firearm offenses and will appear in court on April 14.
Kansas City Police Helicopter Unit Founder Returns for Ride-Along
Jack Brady recently visited the Kansas City (MO) Police Department (KCPD) Helicopter Unit 48 years after he started the program to check in on its progress and go for a ride in one of its choppers. It had been almost 30 years since Brady had been in the cockpit of a helicopter, where he spent hours every day in the late 1960s and early 70s. Brady started the KCPD aviation program back in 1968, making the city one of the first places in the nation to have airborne patrol.
Brady is also credited with being a founding member of the Airborne Public Safety Association, which is now an international organization. At last year's APSA conference, he was honored for his long-time service.
Now nearly 88-years-old, Brady turned up at the heliport on the city's East side in early March and introduced himself to the unit's current commander, Captain Kevin O'Sullivan, who granted Brady the ride in one of the department's new aircraft. "They almost fly themselves compared with what we used to have to do," Brady said after the flight.
U.K. Police to Use UAS Around Gatwick Airport
The Sussex (U.K.) Police intend to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) around the Gatwick Airport to improve safety. Officers began running a trial in mid-March to test how the UAS can be used to deal with potential incidents. Officials said the system beams live images to officers on the ground, allowing them to more quickly assess locations and film incidents from above. An officer controls the aircraft from the ground, in its line of sight, using a portable console. The trial will utilize the Aeryon Skyranger system and is being funded by the U.K.'s Association of Chief Police Officers.
Sussex officers are expected to use the unmanned equipment in line with the current Civil Aviation Authority regulations, and landowners close to the airport were shown how the system works and asked for permission to deploy the equipment from their land before the program was launched. If the trial is successful, Sussex Police expect the UAS could be used during operations such as collecting evidence after collisions or major incidents and search and rescue missions. To see what the UAS records from the air, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-tOFkCzoo8&feature=youtu.be.
Did You Know? APSA Gear Is A Click Away
Did you know that you could buy APSA merchandise at any time throughout the year? Shop APSA's online store, The Hangar, and show your APSA spirit with apparel for men, women and kids. In addition, check out the APSA logo merchandise like hats, patches, umbrellas, wings, pins, and more at www.alea.org/store.
Maryland State Aviation Names Finch Jr. Pilot of the Year
The Maryland State Police Aviation Command (MSPAC) selected William S. "Stan" Finch, Jr. as its 2013 Pilot of the Year in early March. Finch is assigned to the Salisbury Aviation Section based at the Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport. He was selected for the annual award based on his performance, dedication and commitment to the MSPAC mission.
Finch has been a member of MSPAC for more than 30 years. He has served as an aviation trauma technician, pilot, sergeant, instructor pilot and civilian pilot. In 2013, Finch was named the unit's lead instructor pilot for the statewide transition into the new AW139 multi-mission helicopter, a role in which he was responsible for drafting a training program in compliance with FAA guidelines. Finch has also coordinated and supervised the training of pilots on the new AW139. MSPAC credits Finch with allowing it to transition three sections into the new platform, and the fourth transition session began in mid-March.
New York County Police Helicopter Rescues Wind Surfer
The Westchester County (NY) Police Department Aviation Unit rescued a wind surfer who was unable to make his way back to the mainland from the Long Island Sound on the night of March 20. The police helicopter was crewed by Pilot Peter Pucillo and TFO Michael Brady.
New Rochelle Police received a 911 call from a person onshore who said he observed a wind surfer fall of his board before drifting out of sight while clinging to it. The Aviation Unit responded and conducted a search of the area using night vision goggles. Pucillo and Brady eventually found the man on an island, landed and were able to retrieve the 26-year-old and his equipment. The victim was taken by helicopter back to the mainland where he was evaluated for hypothermia.
Gainesville Police Uses Helicopter in Rescue of Missing Woman
The Alachua County (FL) Sheriff's Office and Gainesville Police Joint Aviation Unit helped locate a woman and three children in the Ocala National Forest in mid-March. The Marion County Sheriff's Office requested the unit's helicopter to help with the search, according to Gainesville Police Department spokesman Officer Ben Tobias. After an unsuccessful search in the northern area of the forest, a Lake County Sheriff's Office helicopter began to search the southern area and spotted the victims.
According to reports, the woman went for a drive with the children and her car got stuck in the mud. Instead of trying to get cars to the stranded woman and children, a Gainesville Police Joint Aviation Unit pilot suggested landing and evacuating the group by air. A helicopter piloted by a Marion County officer picked up two boys, and then another aircraft piloted by a Gainesville officer picked up the woman and a 2-month-old baby. Pilots flew the group to Salt Springs Sheriff's station for medical attention and to treat them for dehydration.
Former Illinois Sheriff Indicted for Scheme to Fund Aviation Unit
A former Kankakee County (IL) Sheriff's Office official, Timothy Swanson, was indicted on March 12 for a scheme linked to the non-profit organization he formed to support the department's aviation program. Federal prosecutors charged Swanson with mail fraud, money laundering, income tax evasion and filing false income tax returns. The alleged scheme occurred in part during his tenure as aviation manager and municipal services chief with the department between July 2009 and September 2013.
According to the indictment, Swanson solicited area law enforcement organizations and agencies to make financial donations to the Illinois Regional Air Support Service, the non-profit he created to support two helicopters obtained by his administration. Federal prosecutors say he received more than $350,000 in donations and used a credit card to make $186,000 in personal purchases.
Swanson faces two counts each of mail fraud, income tax evasion and filing false income tax returns, and one count of money laundering. The helicopters, which were under the command of the sheriff's department and housed at Greater Kankakee Airport during Swanson's tenure, were returned to the U.S. Department of Defense in October 2012. Prosecutors allege Swanson used the helicopters for more than law enforcement purposes, including under a private contract for traffic control with Chicagoland Speedway.
Illness Takes Life of Ohio Pilot
A pilot with the Hamilton County (OH) Sheriff's Office, Roger N. Hinkle, 56, lost his three-year battle with gastric cancer last month. APSA member Hinkle had flown for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office for nearly 15 years. Before becoming a pilot for the Sheriff's Office, he spent 14 years in the Marine Corps and retired with the rank of captain. Condolences to his wife, three children and police family.
Small Fines for Men Who Pointed Laser at Canadian Police Helicopter
Three Edmonton men were fined $3,000 in late February after admitting they pointed a green laser light at the Edmonton Police Service Air-1 helicopter. Each pleaded guilty to one count of creating a hazard to aviation under the Federal Aeronautics Act. The judge in the case accepted the $3,000 fine after noting pointing a laser at an aircraft is a "very serious problem." The judge also suggested the Parliament of Canada might make laser pointing a criminal offense in the future, which could result in prison time for those convicted.
The case prosecutor reported the city police chopper was patrolling north Edmonton on Sept. 7 when the pilot and TFO noticed a green laser beam hitting the cockpit. The crewmembers put on protective glasses and turned on an infrared camera to help them determine the laser's origin. Patrol officers were then dispatched to the area, and the three men were arrested and taken into custody. The prosecutor said the laser was directed at the police helicopter for a full two minutes, which she described as a "continuous, relentless attack."
NC Aviation Unit Upgrade Should Lead to Less Noise
The Wilmington (NC) Police Department is in the process of making an upgrade that will reduce the noise generated by its Bell 206 by about 40%. The aircraft is undergoing a tail rotor blade replacement, and the Van Horn Aviation-manufactured composite blade that will be installed is expected to disturb the community less during helicopter missions.
According to a police department memo, the $39,140 rotor expense will be shared with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, which works together with Wilmington through the Southeastern Airborne Law Enforcement (SABLE) Unit. SABLE currently has two choppers in its fleet. "The Van Horn Aviation composite tail rotor blades enhance the operational experience, provide additional lift capacity in high/hot conditions and reduce overall aircraft noise in low-level urban flight," the department memo said.
Europe Approves New Accident Reporting Rule
The European Parliament adopted a new accident/incident-reporting rule on March 4. The legislation is intended to accelerate the flow of relevant accident/incident information, thereby speeding the analysis and adoption of new procedures to reduce aviation accidents.
The system adopted for the 28-state European Union is considered a cornerstone of a modern approach to safety policy by learning not only from accidents, but also from small incidents even if they had no serious consequences. The new rule is designed to gather and exchange incident information with the involvement of airlines, manufacturers, air traffic controllers, aircrews, mechanics, national authorities and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
A European network of safety analysts, coordinated by the EASA, will be charged with detecting trends and safety issues of pan-European significance while also recommending appropriate action. The new rule will start to be implemented in May and will be in full force 18 months later.
Aviation Assets Help Find Three in West Virginia
The West Virginia State Police Aviation Division recently assisted in a successful search for three people reported missing during a fishing trip. Along with the department's Troop 3 Search & Rescue Team and volunteers, the Aviation Division found the men in a wooded area following the land and air search.
Officials said the search was hampered by windy conditions, deep snow and rugged terrain, which separated the men from their vehicle by about three miles. Two of the men suffered injuries but were transported to a nearby hospital and quickly stabilized.
Night Vision Awards Entries Now Being Accepted; Winners to Be Announced at Reception During APSA Conference
The Night Vision Awards, which were founded by APSA corporate member Aviation Specialties Unlimited and are now co-sponsored by Night Flight Concepts along with media partners MHM Publishing (Vertical Magazine, Vertical 911) and RotorCraft Pro Media Network (RotorCraft Pro magazine), are currently open for nominations. These awards, created in 2011 with the goal of recognizing aviation operators and units that use night vision goggles to complete missions safely around the world, are presented three times a year (HELI-EXPO, APSA EXPO, and AMTC).
The four Night Vision Awards to be presented on July 17 at a reception hosted by the sponsors during APSA EXPO 2014 in Phoenix, AZ are the Community Awareness, International Awareness, 5-Year Service, and 10-Year Service Awards. "Last year at APSA, we honored seven law enforcement units," Night Vision Awards emcee Scott Emerine said. "Each unit had their own story of how night vision systems helped their unit succeed in catching suspects or saving lives, and we feel privileged that we are able to get their stories out there to raise awareness about NVGs while honoring them at the same time."
Any flight operation using any night vision system is eligible for consideration. Award nomination packets can be downloaded or filled out at www.nightvisionawards.com. Operators must be present in Phoenix in order to be eligible for entry for the awards. Nominators are asked to submit photos, videos and stories about their use of night vision systems along with their nomination form. A full list of previous winners and award description can be found on http://www.nightvisionawards.com.
2014 Northeast Region Safety Seminar Headed to East Coast
The 2014 Northeast Region Safety Seminar, to be held May 6-8, will be hosted by the Baltimore (MD) County Police Department in Hunt Valley, MD. This annual safety event will feature a full slate of educational programs, including limited space for water survival/egress training, and an exhibit area for the most cutting edge companies in the industry to display their products and services.
As always, registration for this safety seminar is free for APSA members. There is, however, a fee for participating in the water survival / egress training. The deadline to sign up for the water survival / water egress training is April 22, so submit your registration form ASAP to guarantee this course!
The conference host hotel, the Baltimore Hunt Valley Inn, is offering a reduced rate through April 18. Please contact Chris Lieberman, APSA Northeast Region Director, at 914-490-4555 or clieberman@PublicSafetyAviation.org for more information, or visit the APSA events page online atwww.alea.org/public/events.
Plans for APSA EXPO 2014 Are Heating Up
Full attendee and exhibitor information for APSA EXPO 2014, to be held in Phoenix, AZ, July 16-19, is available now on the APSA website,www.alea.org.
Plans and scheduling for the event, which sets the standard for excellence in public safety aviation, are now in the final stages, and everything attendees need to map out their trip is a click away. Online registration for the conference can be found at http://archives.alea.org/events/annual-conference. Make your plans now to attend APSA EXPO 2014 in Phoenix this July!