Other law enforcement agencies are grounding their airborne units to meet municipal budget requirements. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is doing just the opposite.
The LASD won approval from the Board of Supervisors on June 1 to spend $56.7 million on a new helicopter fleet.
At PoliceMag.com, we've read plenty of stories about agencies grounding air patrol units. These groundings have occurred in Tulsa, Okla., Oakland, San Bernardino, Calif., and Colorado Springs.
The LASD news is encouraging, because airborne units are a powerful tool for law enforcement when used effectively to assist black and whites during pursuits, gather surveillance or perform search-and-rescue missions.
The sheriff's existing patrol fleet will be replaced by at least 12, but likely 14, Eurocopter A350 Astar craft.
The Eurocopter A350 Astar craft will replace existing similar models that have passed their optimal lifespan of seven years or 7,000 flight hours. These craft aren't cheap to buy, outfit or maintain—San Bernardino's sheriff used them.
Each bird costs $2 million. The agency must then spend $2.1 million a piece to upfit them for use by deputies. But the agency has built-in support because older models are now in use. The agency has invested signficant resources toward training pilots of these craft.
Also, the agency will retain its trio of Sikorsky Sea King copters dating from the 1960s for mountain rescue; these craft are ideal for higher altitudes or rougher weather, the Long Beach Press Telegram reports.