Law enforcement agencies around the world use the helicopter as an essential crime-fighting tool.
Welcome to Shephard Studio’s podcast series on Revolutions in Vertical Flight, sponsored by our partner Bell.
In our first series, we learnt about the history of vertical flight and discovered the key pioneers and revolutionary moments that created the rotorcraft industry we know today.
In this second series, we learn more about the helicopter’s role in society, and how it helps overcome obstacles, protect the public and ultimately save lives.
We’ll hear from a range of operators about how they use helicopters to carry out those tasks that are too expensive or dangerous to conduct by other means. We consider the future, discovering how greater autonomy is poised to reshape the role of rotorcraft even further.
In this episode, we hear how at the end of the Vietnam War, thousands of young helicopter pilots returned to the US looking for work.
Many of these men used their flying skills to adapt the helicopter for new jobs, along the way creating entirely new industries that still play a critical role in society today.
Airborne law enforcement is one of the most important examples.
Episode 4 of the second series: The Utility of the Helicopter is here.
A transcript of this episode is below:
Terry Miyachi 00:05 Law enforcement, aviation, it’s all about the police mission itself. It’s all about creating officer safety, enhancing public safety.
Stan Rose 00:14 It’s not like you’re going to go out and save the day the first time every time. But I can cover 100 acres of cornfield with a point of view that somebody can’t hide from.
Tyler Johns 00:25 We have the ability to help out our officers in anything that they’re doing. If they need help, we’re overhead, we’re providing cover, we’re providing observations, we’re able to land and assist if needed.
Narrator 00:40 At the end of the Vietnam War, 1000s of young helicopter pilots returned to the US looking for work. Many of these men used their flying skills to adapt the helicopter for new jobs, along the way creating entirely new industries that still play a critical role in society today. Airborne law enforcement is one of the most important examples. One of those pilots was Stan Rose, now the CEO of the Helicopter Safety Alliance.
Stan Rose 01:10 I got back from Vietnam in 71. Unfortunately, prior to that time, the thing that held back the helicopter industry was a lack of pilots. They don’t fly like airplanes. You sort of have to be a helicopter specific guy. You know, helicopter pilots can jump in an airplane. But airplane pilot can’t jump in. It just doesn’t work. I think the army trained somewhere between seven and 10,000 pilots. Half of us got dead in Vietnam. But the interesting thing is that after Vietnam, we had thousands of pilots and no jobs.
Narrator 02:01 Welcome to Shepard Studio’s Revolutions in Vertical Flight, brought to you in partnership with Bell. In our first series, we learned about the history of vertical flight, and discovered the key pioneers and revolutionary moments that created the rotorcraft industry we know today. In the second series, we learn more about the helicopter’s role in society, and how it helps overcome obstacles, protect the public, and ultimately save lives. We’ll hear from a range of operators about how they use helicopters to carry out those tasks that are too expensive or dangerous to conduct by other means. We consider the future, discovering how greater autonomy is poised to reshape the role of rotorcraft even further.
Narrator 02:58 Stan Rose and a friend joined the US Army Reserves, allowing them to keep flying while learning about potential employment opportunities. This role led him into several new helicopter sectors, including airborne law enforcement.
Stan Rose 03:13 We had a B model Huey in our reserve unit. It had to literally come from somewhere, went through the overhaul process. This was a freshly overhauled UH-1 but the smaller version. It’s not like the classic long body, Huey it’s shorter and a little stubbier. But the thing had, like 400 hours on it. It was virtually a new aircraft in the unit. A bunch of us were bemoaning. It was one of the better flying ships, we like the helicopter. We got orders to turn it into the desert. It was fresh out overhaul hadn’t been out overhaul for two years. They said that we’re not going to keep any of the B models send it to the desert or storage. It was going to the boneyard. A bunch of us were bemoaning this fact, and one of the guys had a friend over in a local police department. We all got together at a bar one night and the guy from the police department said, well, we just found out that if we apply we can get surplus stuff.
Why don’t we get this helicopter and maybe some other helicopters? Well, one arm of that turned into Huey. It was actually the fourth air medical helicopter in the United States. At the same time, as soon as he opened the door at the boneyard, they say what else do you want? They took some light observation helicopters and we turn them into police ships. Bell 47 and so at one point in time, I think we had six aircraft. We had the Huey and at any one time we had one sometimes two Bell 47s that we fly. But we were doing some interesting stuff. Today we take it all for granted that there’s search and rescue. That there’s things like this. But you think about police work and some of the stuff today, they’re doing so much with the infrared and night vision goggles, all this stuff.
Narrator 05:20 The communities that found themselves supported by a police helicopter unit quickly saw the advantages that the hovering eye in the sky offered.
Stan Rose 05:30 You become known as the guys who have a helicopter. The guys from other counties call you up. Just to give you an example, there was an old man and his dog who were apparently at six o’clock at night, on a winter night, he left his friend’s house and was going home walking home with his dog, and he’s an elderly guy. His friend waits couple hours and this is before cell phones. His friend waits an hour or so because it’s a good long walk back to his place, calls him up the house he doesn’t answer. Calls again doesn’t answer. Now they’ve got people out looking for him. The police are looking for him on the roads and all this stuff. Well, they’ve exhausted the search, and they don’t know where the guy could be. They called us because we have a big spotlight. I flew over there. I’m talking to the police on the ground. You’re trying to get the lay of the land. I say, all right, whoever’s at the house where he left, turn on the lights on your car.
Now I know where the lights on the car are. Then whoever’s at his house, turn on the lights on your car. Well, the road goes down a half a mile to an intersection, turns 90 degrees left and back up the hill, another half a mile to his house. But when they turn on the lights that those two places, there’s a power line that goes exactly between the two. Of course, no cars can drive on the power line. We flew down the power line very well. We bound him in five minutes, just by having that other view. Yes, helicopters are expensive, they cost you X number of dollars an hour. But when you can hone in on something as quickly as that, you’re saving money because they had 20 cop cars. By the time by the time they get everybody out, then the dogs and then the thing and they found the guy, huddled up with his dog trying to stay warm. That’s one example.
Narrator 07:34 Helicopters can carry out many airborne law enforcement tasks, most notably in the surveillance role.
Stan Rose 07:41 It’s not like you’re going to go out and save the day, the first time every time. But I can cover 100 acres of cornfield with a point of view that somebody can’t hide from, where covering that by ground is time consuming. It’s not like we got out every day and did hero work. But we save people a lot of work and we augment. That was the foundation for what we do today. Today, they’re doing stuff I’d never thought of believe me. But the early days of this were spent with us trying to use the knowledge that we gained in Vietnam, for some good and part of that was therapy for ourselves, believe me. Trying to do something that was worthwhile and made all this worthwhile, so that was gratifying work.
Narrator 08:34 Sergeant Tyler Johns is a chief helicopter pilot at the California Highway Patrol, which has been involved in airborne law enforcement for decades, both fixed and rotary wing. The largest statewide law enforcement agency in the United States, the California Highway Patrol operates 15 helicopters. The helicopter fleet offers many advantages for police work, particularly when it comes to search and rescue.
Tyler Johns 09:00 Well, on the helicopter side, the advantages for our helicopter specifically, are the regional rescue platform and being able to rescue people that are trapped in harm’s way in essence, and the ability to help the people of California wherever they’re at. But also help out our officers on the ground. That is what a helicopter brings to the table. When I say helicopter, I also would like to incorporate our airplane into that as a huge tool to assist our officers and people. But the helicopters specifically when we’re tasked with responding to a person that has been that is injured out in the middle of the desert, on the side of a mountain, on the coastline, in the very wooded areas of our state. They need help. A lot of the times, we’re the only aircraft that is responding to that location. The only way that that person can get rescued because of where they’re at, is with a helicopter. That is rewarding. That’s what it brings to the table, the ability to locate the person in this rural areas that’s miles and miles away from anything, locate them. With our rescue gear, we’re able to lower personnel down, hoist them up to the helicopter, with their injuries, and take them to a hospital to recover.
That’s what the helicopter brings to the table on helping our people. But there’s other things we do besides rescue. I mean, for example, we also do ALS med evacs. Again, a family gets in a crash. It’s one of the low points in their life. We’re able to land to the scene, provide medical aid, and take them to the hospital. That is the essence of what a helicopter can do for helping our people. The other part of that, is when it comes to law enforcement, and that’s with any of our aircraft. We have the ability to help out our officers. For example, in anything that they’re doing, they need help, we’re overhead we’re providing cover, or providing observations, we’re able to land and assist if needed. For example, one time I was flying the fixed wing for the department out of our thermal unit like I talked before.
It’s a very desolate desert region. I got tasked with searching for some wire thieves. I located the wire thieves actually stealing the wire from an old, abandoned church structure. I located the thieves they got in the car and they travelled out through towards Park Arizona, but through Vidal junction, and the areas of the desert that are just hundreds of miles of desolation. I follow this try to get an officer to the location. Because it’s so rural, the officers in that area are called resident post officers, so they might be the only officer for hundreds of miles. I got a hold of him. Luckily, he was working. He pulled him behind the suspects after following for about an hour. He pulled in behind the suspects and we were going to try to wait until another officer, as we get closer to the border of Arizona another officer could could help assist because there’s three bad guys or three suspects and one officer at this point.
Well, they pulled over immediately. Now we are out in the middle of the desert. We have an officer that is outnumbered by three suspects and just wants to get in a situation. I basically turned around, landed on the highway with the airplane got out and helped officer conduct a felony stop and take the suspects into custody. That’s what we can offer from the aircraft. We’ve done that many times in that in the helicopter as well. That’s what we offer and that’s what’s unique about our aircraft but also specifically the helicopter is rescuing people helping out our officers and the ability to land in places where no other aircraft can get into.
Narrator 13:30 But what does it take to build an airborne law enforcement capability? It isn’t easy with plans facing challenges around logistics, technology and funding. For the Stockton police department in California, the benefits have more than justified the costs. Stockton PD is new aviation unit began operations in the summer of 2019 flying with a bell 505. The department’s experiences since then, underlying the advantages of helicopters as force multipliers for police. Here’s chief pilot, Daniel Lowry.
Daniel Lowry 14:07 It was about three years ago that chief had been pushing for air unit for a long time. Obviously they’re expensive. Money’s always tight. He was actually able to get some money set aside to build a starter unit. We started doing research and getting things ready to go. Things came up and that money went away. The programme was turned off. Then it was turned back on again about another year later. We started doing the research again, and then that was turned off. But the chief has done an amazing job in the city with the programmes that he’s implemented, and the work that he’s done with community-oriented policing. It got the attention of some people at the Capitol. He was able to campaign and get the governor to give us a $3 million grant to start the air unit. Then it was turned back on again. We started moving forward. Like you said, defining the mission there’s one thing you really want to air unit, and then all sudden you find out that it’s happening.
You’re like, okay, well now I have this mountain to climb. I’m not sure exactly how to do it. We just kind of did it one step at a time and starting with the research go into as many agencies as we could. Everybody in the helio air support community. It’s a small community, and they’re amazing, everybody couldn’t help us more, they just were more than willing to do anything for us. We went and talked to these agencies and learned what works and what don’t. It was eye opening, and it was a huge help. It really was, it really got us moving in the right direction. Some of the big key things that we learned was if you’re having to try to teach, like your admin, your city politicians and your community about something that they don’t know or understand anything about. I mean, we know you’re in aviation, you understand, it’s kind of a whole different animal on its own.
You’re trying to educate them to understand the mindset that we got to be in, when it comes to this. One of the things we learned was, when it comes to figuring out budgets, not trying to sugarcoat it, or downsize it or make it seem like, try to downplay the numbers, and it’s only going to cost this much. It’s more palatable. The problem there, obviously, you come back later, and now we need more money. This, can be real popular. We were told just to if anything, inflate the numbers, so that way, you’re on the safe side, and that way, when you come in under that, then you’re the hero, and they’re going to love you and keep operating. I thought that was a really good key thing that we learned, and then also you almost have to kind of advertise the aircraft, because you got to be able to show why are we spending all this money on this.
You have to, have in place from day one, as soon as we take took off from that pad the first day, we had to have something in place that we could be able to track numbers, quantify what we’re doing out there. As far as like, man hours saved, every time that we handle a call, and the unit doesn’t have to go out there. Missing persons at risk that we found, any time that we can shut down a code three run because paramedics were already on scene with the crash, that reduces that liability there. There’s all these different things that we need to be able to quantify and be able to show this is what we’re doing, so they understand because they don’t. It’s kind of your job to make sure that they understand what it is you’re doing, and the difference that the aircraft is making.
Narrator 17:35 Buying the aircraft and establishing the unit demanded a patient step by step approach.
Daniel Lowry 17:42 I mean, I think there was a lot. There was just seemed like one challenge after the next but you just as each one kind of falls in your lap, you just figure out a way to work through it. But the funding for say, like maintenance, you know how it normally works, you get so much money, and then you don’t use all that money. Next year, they’re like, well, you don’t need that much you didn’t use it all. We’re going to give you less money. But it doesn’t work like that we’re different. That’s where you got to teach them, I didn’t have to replace parts this year. Next year, I might have to replace the parts. It might cost a little more.
They have to understand that and trying to like, put money aside so that you’re ready for that when it comes and not have that touched or go to some other projects, when it’s needed. It’s another challenge. Those were tough. Selecting the aircraft, that was another challenge. For some reason, somehow, there’s somebody out there that finds out that you’re looking to start an air unit, and I was inundated with every manufacturer of anything that flies, and they were calling and email and wanting to come see us, and trying to sell us every machine you could think of.
There’s things that I was thinking about. The main things that we had learned from our research was, what’s your mission, start with your mission. I knew that basically, we’re going to be a patrol car in the sky. Similar to Fresno City, we talked about them. They were a very similar city to ours. We knew that we’re not inserting SWAT, we’re not doing long line, we’re just going to patrol and be there for the officers on the ground. With that in mind, we started looking at aircraft and I looked at used aircraft to try to save money, get into it cheaper and tried to have some money aside because we’re nervous. Starting this new air unit, I want to make sure I had a little extra in case something come up that we didn’t think about. That was kind of the way we were going to go and then I got contacted by Bell and they wanted to bring the 505 out.
Honestly at first I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t really think it was for us, but they were persistent. They brought it out. In one flight, I honestly knew that’s what we needed to have because the performance that it had, the comfort and the ability and then also the cost of operation because we were looking at A star. Honestly, I think the 505 operates for half of what A star operates for. It does everything that we needed to do. I mean, the A star didn’t do anything that the 505 doesn’t that we need. Then a brand new aircraft, so it’s under warranty. I know you’re not going to have any surprises like buying a used car, you get home, you don’t know what you’re getting, some transmission can fall out of it. We got a new helicopter, I know it’s good. There’s going to be bugs. But that’s where Bell and I like to think that our success is not because we did anything super, we had some amazing people around us and Bell, the customer service is unreal.
Anytime there was an issue, immediately, people were on it, fixing it, getting it taken care of, and we never lost any patrol time. That was huge. That was one of my biggest fears that kept me up at night. If I selected some aircraft, and something happens in the very beginning, because I try to explain to everybody we have to be flawless, we have to be perfect. We don’t have any room for error, because everybody’s watching us, and they just waiting to pull the handle, and just get rid of this and save money. We had to hit the ground running and do good things. With the help of Bell always be in there and keeping on top of any of those problems. It didn’t matter what time of day it was, they immediately get on the computer and are already just trying to work out a fix for it. I mean, it might sound like I worked for Bell, I mean, it’s just how it happened. That’s what helped us be successful. I’m appreciative of that. It’s a big deal.
Narrator 21:38 What’s it like actually to work in airborne law enforcement? Daniel Lowry found that out on day one of the new Stockton PD aviation unit.
Daniel Lowry 21:49 Yeah, we were pretty nervous our first day out. We’re trying to get out there and see how everything’s going to mesh together. On the first flight of the first day, we got called by the auto theft Task Force. They had occupied stolen car. They asked us to pick it up. We did with the flare from a long distance away. They didn’t have to engage the vehicle, try to get into a chase or end up with some type of liability from a crash or something due to pursuit. They just stayed back. We followed the vehicle until it pulled over and both occupants got out and walked away about a half a block away and we called in the ground units and they came in and grabbed the two and on the FLIR, we have one of them throwing some narcotics over a fence as the officers pull up. Had that all on video. That was the first slide of the first day. That was a big deal. It made me very happy just to just show that, that there’s a need for the aircraft here. It’s going to do good things.
Narrator 22:51 Like many parts of the helicopter sector, airborne law enforcement traces its roots to the 1940s. As one of the pioneering helicopter manufacturers, Bell has played a vital role over the decades. Here’s Terry Miyachi, a former commander in the Arizona Department of Public Safety. He now works in the Para public segment of Bell’s customer solutions team.
Terry Miyachi 23:14 Bell will actually instilled the world’s first police helicopter, if you will, you have to go all the way back to 1948. It was also a Bell 47. It’s really that history since then that I guess you could say is impressive. Not only is that operator that bought that first police helicopters still in business today with Bell products, but operators around the world today are partnered with Bill, if you will in Bell products. In fact, more than any other OEM, actually, I think yes, and this word kind of hits home for me, I think you have to look at the mission, law enforcement, aviation, it’s all about the police mission itself. It’s all about creating officer safety, enhancing public safety, and, whether that’s pursuit catching a bad guy or just, routine patrols, if you will. Bell understands that mission very well. Because of that, I believe that had a very successful history. That first mission in 1948 had a goal of public safety, that same goal exists today. 72 years later here. You know, from my personal perspective. I’ve been fortunate to be part of that for a long time. I guess that’s one of things I’m proud of, that I not only used to be an operator, but now I get to to support those operators on a global basis in that regard.
Narrator 24:44 Apple law enforcement has grown in importance over the decades thanks to the immense benefits it provides police as a force multiplier. Here’s Matt Jayne, marketing manager for the bell 505.
Matt Jayne 24:57 You’re doing the job of multiple vehicles and multiple foot units from the air. I think there’s a study LAPD had done where they’re showing is 20 or 27 to one ratio of cars to helicopters. Essentially what they were using for justification is that one helicopter on the scene is about equivalent to 20 cars on the ground. As far as the amount of ground they can cover and visibility and the job that they’re doing on the scene. I think the mission overall probably hasn’t changed all that much. I think it’s an asset with eyes in the air that can provide help to the ground. But what’s improved is the technology aspect of things you think of way back when in the 40s and 50s, when they’re flying Bell 47s with a pair of binoculars to today where you can literally have a camera on the nose of the aircraft and at 1200 feet, view a licence plate, or use an IR camera to see somebody hiding under a bush.
I’ve seen videos where you’ve got a person that’s running from the police. They’ve crawled underneath the car, you can literally see his crawl track underneath the vehicle. Stockton PD, who recently bought a [inaudible 26:10] tells this great story where literally the first day, the first hour, they were able to get up in the air with their new helicopter, they had a car chase, and one of their police units was about to pull out in front of the car and would have gotten t-boned. I mean, that would have been real bad. They were able to from the air be like hey, don’t pull out, just wait a second we got him. All the units were able to sit back and wait. They just followed the car to the house. The people got out of the car and they were able to pull up on the ground and arrest them with no accidents, no damage, no gunfire, none of that stuff that can be associated with a car chase. It just provides this unique asset where you can honestly just keep people safer, especially the ground units and the citizens safer on the ground because you can do stuff from a standoff distance and cover so much more ground with one asset versus having to flood the scene with cruisers.
Narrator 27:14 Jeremy Graham is a Fellow of the Royal aeronautical society and former chief engineer for Augusta Westland. Like Jayne, he stresses the force multiplier impact of helicopter law enforcement platforms.
Jeremy Graham 27:29 They’re able to do things with one aircraft, with two or three guys on board, that 50 people on the ground would barely be able to do. Of course, they can move around very quickly as well. It’s been a revelation, I think, to the UK police force what the helicopter can do. In terms of what makes a police helicopter, good, now, why is it reasonably suddenly become a really useful tool for the police force? I would say it’s down to three things really, not much to do with helicopter technology, little bit, I guess in respect of cost of ownership. Because the modern civil helicopter is designed with cost of ownership in mind for sure. Whereas previously that was really masked by the attempt to make the things work properly and to give reasonable vehicle performance. But these days, they are certainly easier on the wallet to operate.
I would say there’s three things really. There’s has digital technology which is used in comms and the operator interface and data processing. An obvious one but a bit mundane, is GPS. That’s absolutely revolutionized all sorts of aviation aspects. High-quality low-cost cameras, which can operate across multiple wave bands so they can see in the dark as well as in the day. Those three things together really transformed the value of the aircraft, made it a truly useful asset to police forces.
Narrator 29:14 As with other parts of the helicopter industry, safety is a crucial aspect. Here’s Daniel Lowry, again.
Daniel Lowry 29:22 Obviously safety is paramount with any type of incident that could obviously be the end of a programme. No matter how successful you are. I knew that. I tried to express that to everyone. If there was no reason to be doing something, then why are we doing that? I always say that something might seem like a good idea. But if it’s absolutely not necessary, then there’s no reason to take any extra chance. We try to mitigate risk as minimal as possible. At some point you have to accept a certain amount of risk and we know that but I think coming from the army was a big help for me because they beat us down with safety on a regular basis. That’s always stuck with me. Like I was saying, that 2000 feet that we fly out, try to be quieter. Also it gives me the altitude in case something was to happen, always had a place that I know I’m going to go to. I can make it because I have the altitude and we have a good camera so we don’t need to be down low.
We can use that camera and stay up, high altitude is your friend. The maintenance company is outstanding. I know that they’re doing good work. They’re very reputable. I know that they’ve been nothing but good as far as the safety aspect, taking care of the aircraft. It’s another thing that we realized we went to the App Store website and started looking at there’s they have a like a checklist to setting up a unit, go through and read all that stuff. Okay, we got to have a safety programme. I’ve never had a safety programme before. I’ve flown the army, but, that stuff’s taken care of. Here we got to set everything up ourselves. We’re trying to set that up and have safety meetings and keep track of everything and make sure that we’re staying on top of all that stuff. Even though we’re just a small little unit, we still have to be doing that stuff as well.
Narrator 31:04 A vital feature of any mission specific helicopter is the equipment it carries on board. Sergeant Tyler Johns from the California Highway Patrol explains more about the tools his team relies on during their work.
Tyler Johns 31:18 In our aircraft we have so far H-125s. Sorry, [inaudible 31:24] 125. We have our specific emission equipment. We have the FLIR 380 hdc, which is a high powered, forward looking infrared made by FLIR. It’s a great platform that is part of a system that we use. Our mapping systems from Churchill systems, and it’s integrated to the FLIR and then we have a tracker beam nights, and it’s all kind of part of the same system. That’s good for observing for surveillance. It really enables the helicopter to be staged off from a further distance before. We’d have to be down at between 300 and 500 feet on binoculars. Now we can stage off 1500 feet 2000, 3000 feet at AGL, and still conduct mission as far as law enforcement and anything to do with surveillance or law enforcement.
That’s one side of it. We fly as a crew, as a pilot, and a paramedic flight officer. So it’d be a paramedic tactical flight officer. That’s our normal crew for our regional rescue programme. Then continuing on with the equipment, we have the BF Goodrich hoist, the 500 pound capacity. Then inside the aircraft, we have a full glass cockpit. We also have some other wireless intercom type abilities. That’s pretty much a general overview of the aircraft equipment that we use on a daily basis.
Narrator 32:54 What does the future hold for police helicopter units, like the California Highway Patrol and the technology they use?
Tyler Johns 33:02 What excites me most I think, is the ability and as technology increases, our cameras are going to get better. Our interaction, our ability for the stuff we are seeing to be displayed to not just one person or some downlink is going to be able to be integrated seamlessly with people on the ground, no matter who it is we can assign people. I think that’s coming in the future for us relatively quickly. Technology, the advent of technology, but also our aircraft. Our aircraft are getting lighter, and they’re getting more powerful. It’s going to enable us to have more performance. That’s exciting.
Narrator 33:45 The California Highway Patrol is also looking at the role that small unmanned drones can play in supporting operations.
Tyler Johns 33:53 Another exciting part of our programme that I see in the future is the our drone programme. We’re configuring our drone programme to help assist in different areas of the state for our ground officers. Now, I think that’s going to be an integrated part with our air operations programme, and how those work together. That is pretty enticing as things come down, to be able to integrate our air operations programme with the increase in technology that is fastly approaching. Just more integration with the technology with more people is where I see it going.
Narrator 34:30 Back at Stockton PD, equipping its new Bell 505 with the right mission equipment was a critical step in introducing the helicopter.
Daniel Lowry 34:39 It was like almost everything else that we did, I didn’t really want to try and reinvent the wheel. I knew Sacramento had just gone through this. We looked very closely at their aircraft and their equipment. It was pretty much spot on with what we needed. It was exactly going to do the same exact work that we’re doing and they set it up really well. We pretty much mirrored their same equipment package, the equipment will cost almost as much as a helicopter, that’s where it can be tough. Like we talked about earlier, we thought about going to used route and this aircraft that we looked at had some old equipment on it, but we just wanted to get our foot in the door, we were just going to be happy to get anything.
But honestly, I’m so glad that we went with the new aircraft with the new updated equipment. Because as most people know, when you’re searching for a suspect, you’re not going to see a silhouette of a person laying out there normally. Normally, it’s going to be a sliver of the heat source for a split second. the better camera that you have, the more likely that you’re going to recognise that and the more success you’re going to have. I feel like we’re really fortunate to have the new aircraft with the new equipment because it makes a big difference.
Narrator 35:54 Operational flexibility is critical for all police and para public agencies today. Police forces, for example, can often be called upon for search and rescue missions. Such flexibility is all part of that force multiplier advantage that helicopters offer. Here’s Terry Miyachi again.
Terry Miyachi 36:13 The technology that’s associated with police helicopters is undoubtedly part of that. But really more so a lot of these police operators, they look at police helicopters as a force multiplier, if you will. You add that technology, like you said, the spotlight or FLIR camera or the downlink capabilities, it just adds to that force multiplier aspect, that force multiplier is there. It’s really about putting the tools starting with the platform to put those tools on, so that police officers and pilots can more effectively, more efficiently do their do their jobs, if you will.
Narrator 36:53 Technology has evolved to support this changing role and to boost helicopter performance. Such evolution has fueled the force multiplier advantage for airborne law enforcement.
Terry Miyachi 37:05 They have evolved as have the aircraft, that police camera, if you will, that imaging camera. Well put it this way, they didn’t even exist 70 years ago. Today that technology was not only been created, but has grown and advanced by leaps and bounds even as simple as a police spotlight might seem the technology there for geo synchronising and using it in association with your camera and that type of thing has greatly advanced. The platform’s themselves it’s all it’s all about, things like station time, speed to station, useful lows, communication effectiveness, those types of things. The technology and aviation has advanced and because of that, the technology and police aviation as advanced and improved that airborne public safety.
Narrator 37:56 While some police departments such as Stockton, have succeeded in launching and operating an aviation unit, it’s not always easy.
Terry Miyachi 38:05 Yeah, the challenges today unfortunately, it’s a very easy question today, because there’s there’s two prominent challenges in the police industry, budget challenges are always there. It’s perhaps highlighted of recent, with a global pandemic and a local economic impact, when it comes to flying helicopters to expanding those fleets or replacing the helicopters. Then here in North America, you also have unfortunate political challenge, as well, that’s stuff can by. You have groups, both supporting and unfortunately, condemning police, if you will, and that in itself, has become quite the challenge. I would be amiss if I did not add safety to this I always would put safety at the forefront. It might not be a challenge per se, but rather an imbalance or advantage, when some of the greatest technology advancements have come in the form of advanced helicopter safety, and that is definitely assisted police in overcoming their challenges.
I’ll kind of sum up this team that I’m on with Bill, all we do is work with police operators around the world including the US here, and it’s amazing to see the commonality, as we visit these units. The common example unfortunately, with these challenges today, there are some police departments or some police aviation units that are under threat of literally being closed down. That’s the extreme example. Others are being given, specific cuts, 10, 15, 20% type cuts. Now, how do they overcome that? That’s the common example, if you will. What’s interesting though, as these political unrest [inaudible 39:59] police aviation is at the same time being shown as a proven asset that’s needed and greatly depended on.
There’s actually some agencies out there, some police aviation operators that are literally in the process of expanding and growing and overcoming those budget obstacles with increased budgets. That’s to me the positive examples out there, and one of the things I think, in the end, please, aviation will overcome these challenges. I know they will. That’s because at the root of police aviation, again is the mission. It’s all about that mission and it’s all about public safety and at the end of the day, that’s what went out and that’s what will keep this segment strong if you will.
Narrator 40:53 Next time moon Revolutions in Vertical Flight. We hear how the helicopters unique characteristics are today being employed across a range of commercial activities, and we learn about some unexpected use of helicopters around the world. The Revolutions in Vertical Flight podcast is produced in partnership with Bell a huge thanks for their support. A big thanks to everyone who gave their time to support the project.
Revolutions in Vertical Flight was produced by Tony Skinner, with interviews conducted by Scott Gourley, script writing by Gerrard Cowen and audio edits by Carmac Media. I’m your narrator to Gennifer Becouarn. Until next time.