Saturday, June 25, 2005

Austin police get donated helicopter from Army to be used for highway patrols

The Austin Police Department's newest crime-fighting tool, a U.S. Army OH-58 helicopter, arrived at its new home Friday afternoon after a several-hour flight from Fort Rucker, Ala.
Beginning in a couple of months, the reconnaissance chopper will be used to patrol Interstate 35 and other major highways in Austin, Texas, help find fugitives and provide aerial views of crowds at large events.
More than three years after the city bought its first police helicopter, department officials accepted the chopper from the Army, which is replacing its fleet with new helicopters.
The Army is awarding about 150 of the used helicopters to law enforcement agencies across the United States.
"They are very serviceable, very fit for police work," said Cmdr. David Carter, who supervises the department's air enforcement unit.
Officers assigned to the aviation unit have long said that they would like a second helicopter, but it hasn't been a priority in the department's budget requests.
The OH-58 is a single-engine, two-bladed helicopter with state-of-the-art navigation and vision equipment.
The helicopter, to be called Air 2, will team up with the department's Eurocopter EC 120B chopper, which the department bought for $1.6 million in late 2001 and calls Air 1.
Carter said the OH-58 will allow officers to split flying time between the two aircraft to put less wear on each.
It also will give the department a backup if the other helicopter is being serviced or is performing another mission.
Carter said operating costs will be about the same for both helicopters: about $225 per flight-hour for gas, oil and maintenance.
He said the department will spend the next few weeks adding police radios and other equipment to the aircraft.
This is part of Austin Police Department's efforts to beef up it's tools for DWI Enforcement.
If you have been arrested for DWI, click here. We can help.