Sheriff's Office Creates Aviation Unit
Agency Acquires Helicopter through the Department of Defense 1033 Program
Eagle One Takes Off in Early 2014
[Harford County, Maryland December 3, 2013] — Sheriff L. Jesse Bane has announced the acquisition of a Bell OH-58 helicopter and the creation of the Harford County Sheriff's Office Aviation Unit. The announcement was made today during a news conference held at the Forest Hill Business Airpark on Industry Lane in Forest Hill.
Sheriff Bane explained he formed a committee in 2010 to study a proposal he received from an agency member to create an airborne law enforcement unit. The proposal outlined acquiring the helicopter from the Department of Defense's 1033 program. In this case, the Sheriff's Office acquired the helicopter through an in-state transfer (as allowed by the 1033 program). The 1033 program was developed as a result of The National Defense Authorization Act which authorizes the Secretary of Defense to transfer excess Department of Defense (DoD) personal property to Federal, state and local Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA). "It was both important and necessary we explore this idea", the Sheriff said, noting, "It is imperative we look closely at any and all assets, resources and most importantly, available technology, which we can use in law enforcement to better serve the public and protect our officers". Over 13,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the United Sates have taken advantage of this program.
The Unit will be staffed by sheriff's deputies who are already certified helicopter pilots, including one who is a 25+ year veteran member of the Sheriff's Office and former Army pilot who is instrument rated; and a 16+ year veteran of the Sheriff's Office who is a commercial rated helicopter pilot as well as a helicopter Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and FAA Advanced Ground Instructor. The crew will also consist of Tactical Flight Officers (TFO). TFO's will be law enforcement deputies who will be trained to observe and provide airborne law enforcement capabilities to the Unit. "I cannot underscore enough its importance to our citizens and our mission", the Sheriff said. The Aviation Unit, the Sheriff explained, will be involved in airborne law enforcement, critical missing persons, high risk calls and surveillance, homeland security/critical infrastructure assessment, marijuana eradication, disaster assessment, recovery and mitigation and as an asset to all law enforcement and public safety agencies. "Harford County occupies 447 square miles, contains significant critical infrastructure within its borders, boasts over 13,000 acres of park land and open space used by hikers, runners and bicyclists, 249 miles of shoreline, associated tributaries used for fishing, kayaking and boating, and a massive transportation infrastructure all of which requires law enforcement and public safety to have resources available to support and protect the people who live, work and play in that environment" the Sheriff said. The Sheriff also remarked that given this type of environment the helicopter will clearly serve as an agency asset. "Studies that have looked at the efficacy of helicopters, he said, claim that in a variety of situations law enforcement helicopters can perform the work of approximately 12-15 ground officers. He further explained that previously it was necessary to depend on other law enforcement aviation units to serve this need. "Despite their willingness to help us, the Sheriff said, their primary responsibilities are to their home jurisdictions or specific mission profiles", adding, "they are not always available to assist us. When evaluating this program," he stated, "We asked ourselves, shouldn't our citizens be afforded the same level of law enforcement service and protection residents of other jurisdictions enjoy? The Aviation Unit will be that resource and add a new dimension to our law enforcement capabilities that will benefit all of our Harford County residents", he said.
The Sheriff explained initially the Unit will be a part-time unit and will be funded by asset forfeiture monies. "No tax dollars were used to create this unit", Bane says. He estimates it will cost an average of $125,000 per year to maintain the aircraft, and cost an average of $300/hr to operate. Additionally, the sheriff says the agency has an extensive inventory of replacement parts valued at over one-million dollars.
The aircraft will use the call sign "Eagle 1" and will be hangered at the Forest Hill Business Airpark. Its FAA registration number is recorded as "N554HC" and was done so in honor of Deputy William McMillion. Deputy McMillion was an ardent supporter of this initiative and recently passed away. Eagle 1 is a Bell OH-58 Observation Helicopter originally designed for the US Army. It was modeled after Bell Helicopters civilian model, the Bell 206 Jet Ranger, which is currently still utilized by the US Army and Police agencies nationwide. Eagle 1 is powered by a Rolls Royce C-20C engine with 420 shaft horsepower. With an overall length of 40' and a rotor diameter of 35', Eagle 1 has 2.5 hour range with a maximum airspeed of 120 knots. It has a total seating capacity of 4. Its mission equipment includes:
- HCSO Police Radio
- SX-5 Night Sun (16 Million Candle Power)
- FLIR U7500 Thermal Imaging Camera (Day / Night)
Eagle One is slated to go in-service in early 2014.