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.
Alabama's Project Lifesaver Receives Help From High School Students
Sylacauga (AL) High School's Future Business Leaders of America presented the Alabama Department of Public Safety State Trooper Aviation Unit with a $5,500 donation in early December to supportProject Lifesaver, a program designed to locate wandering sufferers of Alzheimer's, autism or other cognitive conditions. The high school students raised the money at a charity run/walk in September. Project Lifesaver outfits patients with transmitter bracelets that send a signal to a receiver, allowing safety officials to locate a missing person within 15-30 minutes, compared to the average search time of nine hours without a bracelet.
The Sylacauga Police Department, which has responded to about 130 calls for missing Alzheimer's patients since 2008, began training to implement the program in July. "We're going to purchase all the equipment they need with this money," including two antennas, a supply of bracelets and a one-year supply of batteries, State Trooper Corporal TFO Kent Smith said.
The bracelets have an average working range of seven to 10 miles, and Smith said the unit has picked up transmissions from up to 12 miles. "A person could roam anywhere in Sylacauga, and we could pick them up," he said. Each bracelet costs about $300. They are provided at no cost to those in need as long as supplies allow.
Santa Barbara County Unveils Newest Fleet Addition
The Santa Barbara County (CA) Fire and Sheriff's Department recently held a demonstration of its newly commissioned restored Huey helicopter. Aircrews performed a water drop and emergency personnel hoisted and flew low over the heads of local elected officials, members of law enforcement and attendees of its commissioning ceremony.
Sergeant Gregg Weitzman and Senior Deputy Jon Simon, who crewed the aircraft during the demonstration, were also responsible for spearheading the private fundraising efforts that made its purchase possible. No taxpayer dollars were used. To raise the money, Weitzman and Simon helped start the nonprofit Project Rescue Flight in 2001, which raised $2.7 million toward purchasing the larger, more versatile aircraft.
The Huey aircraft was built in 1965 and was used in the U.S. Army to train young pilots headed to the Vietnam War. The helicopter was retired and then used by a sheriff's department in Colorado, which is where Weitzman and Simon found it. Although the original plan had been to purchase a new aircraft, the airmen decided to forge ahead with the less expensive option of buying and then restoring an aircraft instead. This helicopter began its five-year structure upgrade in 2007.
The aircraft's missions will include aerial firefighting, hoist rescues and other law enforcement, fire and emergency medical functions. "Copter No. 3" brings the county sheriff and fire fleet total to six, with four medium-lift copters and two smaller helicopters. One or more of the older helicopters will be phased out because of the new addition. You can view the aircraft in flight at http://www.ksby.com/news/sb-co-sheriff-s-office-unveils-2-7m-refurbished-rescue-helicopter/.
Calgary Police to Spend $3.5 Million Replacing Helicopters
The Calgary Police Service has put out a tender to trade and replace its 1999 HAWC helicopter in an effort to reduce maintenance costs. The Canadian city has budgeted $3.5 million from capital reserves for aircraft replacement. Police say the plan is to spend $1.6 million to replace each aircraft over the next four years. In 2013, police are looking to replace HAWC2, which has been in use for seven years and has 8,114 hours of airtime.
By 2016, HAWC1 will enter its fourth year of service and be up for replacement. Calgary Police Service administrators believe they will save on repairs in the long run by replacing the aircraft quickly. Police said they're trying to develop a replacement schedule, so come budget time, they can make sure funding requests are kept low.
The Calgary Police Service's earlier request for $2.25 million for upgrades and maintenance to its HAWC helicopters was questioned. But local Alderman Andre Chabot lauded the choppers as a deterrent to lawbreakers. "There's no panacea to crime," Chabot said. "But if you're looking for something that has a great cost-benefit, I think that's one of the best investments the police department has ever made."
Huerta Confirmed as New FAA Administrator
Amidst the tension of the economic discussions in Washington on New Year's Day, the U. S. Senate was busy confirming the nominations of political appointees, including Michael Huerta. Huerta, who has held the post of acting FAA administrator since former Administrator Randy Babbitt stepped down more than a year ago, was among dozens of nominations approved as part of the session ending package. Huerta will be playing catch-up on a number of fronts as the agency deals with a major modernization push in the face of tighter budgets and a struggling economy.
Bird Strikes Miami-Dade Police Helicopter
A pilot of a Miami-Dade (FL) Police Department Aviation Unit helicopter made an emergency landing on Dec. 18, 2012, after a large bird struck the aircraft's windshield and injured him. The Eurocopter AS350 B3 was in flight when the bird struck the right front windshield around 11:15 a.m. The bird shattered the windshield and struck the police pilot in the face, causing minor cuts. The pilot, who was the only person onboard, landed the helicopter in a parking lot and was taken to the hospital for treatment. The dead bird was identified by some sources as a turkey vulture.
North Dakota Agency Receives Authorization to Utilize sUAS
The Grand Forks County (ND) Sheriff's Department was issued a certificate of authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration on November 27, 2012, that permits the operation of a Draganflyer X6 small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) within the 16 counties located in northeastern North Dakota.
The COA allows the operation of the UAS below 400 feet AGL within a defined incident perimeter during daytime visual conditions. Issuance of a NOTAM and notification to affected air traffic control facilities is required one hour prior to aircraft launch.
The Draganflyer X6 is a six-rotor helicopter-style UAS weighing less than three pounds. It is capable of streaming real-time video to a ground station, as well as taking high-definition digital still images. The sheriff's department plans to use the UAS for missing people searches, post-disaster assessments and traffic accident/crime scene photography, among other things. A spokesperson said the agency has no plans to use the aircraft to conduct covert surveillance.
The Grand Forks County Sheriff's Department Small Unmanned Aircraft Unit has been training for more than 18 months. The unit is a collaborative effort between the department and the University of North Dakota's John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. Each pilot has received training from factory representatives. Each law enforcement sensor system operator has completed a 24-hour sensor system operator/visual observer course conducted by University of North Dakota instructors. In addition, unit teams of pilots/sensor systems operators have completed many simulated public safety missions. The unit successfully completed an FAA compliance inspection in September 2012.
The unit is currently awaiting review of general mission profiles by the University of North Dakota's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Compliance Committee. Upon completion of the review, the unit will begin deployment of the UAS. It is anticipated deployments will begin this month.
SOURCE: University of North Dakota
Deputies Retrieve Marijuana Growing Gear With Help of Helicopter
The Santa Clara County (CA) Sheriff's Department recently used helicopters to insert teams looking to dismantle clandestine marijuana operations and haul out environmentally unfriendly gear. Deputies were dropped into eight rough and remote areas via short haul lines. They found and removed miles of black plastic irrigation tubing, propane tanks, car batteries, camping supplies and gardening equipment, along with food wrappers and other trash. Deputies found a Honda muffler on an isolated mountainside that they believe was used to cut down noise produced by a generator.
All told, the efforts by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office Marijuana Eradication Team and several state Department of Fish and Game wardens cleared four tons of material from marijuana fields. No arrests were made, but officials hope the effort will deter future fields from springing up, as well as prevent pollutants from entering creeks and tributaries.
In 2012, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office Marijuana Eradication Team removed more than 91,000 plants and 500 pounds of marijuana at various grow operationsâ€”22 of them outdoors and seven indoors. They made 21 arrests and confiscated nine guns. The sheriff's office receives grant money from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to fund eradication and environmental cleanup operations.
Florida Legislature Considers Bill Banning Police UAS Use
The Daytona Beach (FL) Police Department indicated it would like to use unmanned aircraft to gather evidence, but a bill filed in early December would prohibit police from using the aircraft to collect information anywhere in Florida. The Senate bill (SB 92) would allow the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for counterterrorism missions but would prevent police from using them to take pictures that would be used as evidence. According to the terms of the "Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act" legislation, individuals who learn police are using UAS to gather evidence may be able to sue the agency, and the evidence wouldn't be admissible in court. Read more about SB 92 at http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2013/0092.
The Miami-Dade Police Department has been testing UASs since 2009, using two 18-pound aircraft, one of which was bought with a grant from the federal government. The agency has typically only flown the UASs over the Everglades below 400 feet.
Florida Senate Republicans said in a news report that they have lined up a House sponsor for a comparable bill and would work hard to pass the measure this year. Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood said he understood privacy concerns and doesn't want to see any rash decisions made about disallowing police from using unmanned systems. "If there's great technology that could help people, why not use it?" he said. Chitwood said all technology has changed life in some way and has the potential to be abused, which is why regulations are put in place to make it harder for that abuse to happen.
Cleveland Safety Director Wants Regional Helicopter Program
The City of Cleveland's safety director recently said that high-speed chases and other scenarios warrant making the police department's aviation unit more regional. Martin Flask, Director of the Cleveland Department of Public Safety, said he believes the "Police Aviation Unitâ€”like the Marine Patrol Unitâ€”can and should be supported by our regional partners in an effort to sustain and extend our capabilities."
Flask said the Aviation Unit has operated on a limited bases since 2007 due to budget constraints, and that the important law enforcement tool could be more active with regional support. The comments come in the wake of a chase that ended in the shooting deaths of two suspects on Nov. 6. The 13 officers involved in the chase were placed on desk duty, pending the outcome of the investigation. Investigators said they fired a total of 137 shots that night. None of the Cleveland police cruisers involved in the incident had dash cams installed. The chase started when a second district officer reported that shots were fired from the suspect's vehicle near police headquarters in downtown Cleveland. "While there is a great deal that must be discussed, regionalizing our law enforcement aviation capacity is a viable option that deserves consideration," Flask said.
CHP Helicopter Assists in Swift Water Rescue
A California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter assisted in the rescue of a man who was found clinging to the top of his disabled vehicle in swift moving water two days before Christmas. CHP Helicopter 30 (H-30) was requested by the Alameda County Fire Department to assist in the rescue. H-30 responded from its base at the Napa County Airport to find personnel from Alameda County Fire Department, Livermore/Pleasanton Fire Department, East Bay Regional Parks Police Department and Paramedics Plus Ambulance near the scene.
The crew, Pilot/Officer Pete Gavitte and TFO/Paramedic Matt Gutierrez, found a pickup truck disabled in a creek that had swelled due to recent storms. The victim's daughter called emergency personnel approximately two hours prior to H-30's arrival and pointed out the location where his vehicle entered the water. The truck was about 50 feet from either shore.
Attempts by rescue swimmers to reach the truck were unsuccessful, as the water was too deep and moving too fast. H-30 made a calculated approach to the vehicle and elected to use the "one skid" rescue landing technique, where Gavitte placed the left skid of the helicopter on the roof of the vehicle and Gutierrez was able to grab ahold of the male. The victim was pulled into the aircraft and secured. H-30 then transported him to the shoreline where emergency personnel treated him for hypothermia and transported him to a nearby hospital. Watch the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ah1Kgz0b0MA&sns=em.
SOURCE: California Highway Patrol
Two Helicopters Assist in California Hiker Rescue
A multi-agency response to stranded hikers just below the 9,406-foot summit resulted in two helicopters from the Los Angeles County Fire and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Departments teaming up for a rescue. On Dec. 15, 2012, the fire and sheriff's departments, along with the San Bernardino County Fire and Sheriff's Departments and the U.S. Forest Service/Angeles National Forest received an emergency call from a person who had received a text message from the stranded hikers, who were suffering from exhaustion and exposure to the elements. Temperatures were hovering around freezing with high winds and an approaching storm.
The sheriff's department helicopter arrived at sunset and was able to locate the hikers about 200 yards below the summit on a snow covered ridgeline. The crew relayed the location to the incoming Firehawk helicopter from the fire department. The Firehawk crew evaluated the scene and determined the best rescue option was to land on the summit of the mountain. A firefighter/paramedic then hiked down the ridgeline in the knee deep snow to assess the hikers and assist them back to the aircraft. The victims were flown to a landing zone for further evaluation.
Robinson Helicopter President Joins IHST Executive Committee
The International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST), an organization leading an effort to enhance safety and reduce the civil helicopter accident rate, has added Robinson Helicopter Company President Kurt Robinson to its executive committee. Robinson heads a company with nearly 1,300 employees, a headquarters and factory in Southern California and a network of more than 400 service centers. He is a commercial-rated helicopter pilot and holds an MBA and a law degree from the University of San Diego.
IHST was formed to lead a government and industry cooperative effort to address factors that were affecting an unacceptable helicopter accident rate. The group's mission is to reduce the international civil helicopter accident rate by 80 percent.
This effort is co-chaired by FAA and Helicopter Association International and includes a number of other major industry partners, including APSA. IHST members also establish international partnerships in countries with significant helicopter operations and work to encourage the overseas industries to carry out accident analysis and develop safety interventions.
Montana Sheriff's Office to Receive New Search and Rescue Helicopter
The Flathead County (MT) Sheriff's Office will receive a new state-of-the art helicopter to improve search and rescue efforts in the back country. The new helicopter, which is worth an estimated $8 million and was funded by venture capitalist Mike Goguen, will be equipped with the latest and best technology and begin service this spring. In addition to primarily serving the sheriff's office, the aircraft will be available to assist agencies across the state. The agency currently uses another helicopter through collaboration with a management company. That aircraft went into service in August and has been used for training and preparation.
U.K. Man Sentenced For Shining Laser at West Yorkshire Police Helicopter
A man who pointed a laser pen at the West Yorkshire Police Air Support Unit helicopter as it was investigating a break-in at a school was given a suspended prison sentence in late November. The man shone the laser at the helicopter on Sept. 8 as it hovered above a primary school following reports of intruders. The laser reportedly distracted the pilot during the search, and thermal imaging and mapping equipment was used to identify the location of the light source.
Officers on the ground went to the established address and questioned the perpetrator about the incident. The man showed the officer his laser pen and was arrested. He later admitted his actions were reckless but said he didn't realize the pen was strong enough to reach the aircraft.
The man pleaded guilty to recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. The judge presiding in the case gave him a six-month sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered him to do 100 hours unpaid work.
Join APSA in St. Louis for Safety Education & Networking
The St. Louis (MO) Metro Air Support Unit will host this year's Eastern Region Safety Seminar from March 26 to 28. Network with other public safety aviation professionals and learn about the latest practices to keep your community safe. For registration information, please visit http://archives.alea.org/events/detail.aspx?i=134&p=1&d=03/27/2013.
What Are You Doing This Summer? APSA Hosts Annual Conference in July
It's not too early to start making plans now to join us in Orlando, FL, July 17-20 for APSA's 43rd Annual Conference & Exposition. Better yet, plan to make an entire week of it and join us for a pre-conference course July 15-17. All the information you need to plan a week of the best public safety aviation training you'll ever experience will be available at www.APSA.org soon.