Who's No. 3 in the Gulf?
In reading the July issue, I ran across what I believe is a misprint.
The Rotorcraft Report, in the item about Rotorcraft Leasing Co. acquiring two new Bell 407s, states that that company "is the third largest operator in the Gulf of Mexico" ("Rotorcraft Adds to Bell Fleet," July 2004, page 17). I believe this is incorrect.
PHI and Air Logistics inhabit the No. 1 and No. 2 slots, respectively. Era Aviation, with 47 aircraft (five of which are heavies), and Tex Air, with some number approximating 50, should constitute Nos. 3 and 4. Therefore, Rotorcraft Leasing (with the 38 indicated in the article) should be in fifth place.
I don't know, however, how many aircraft Omni (formerly American) has operating in the Gulf of Mexico, though I don't believe it is more than 38.
Director Of Operations
Era Aviation, Inc.
Gulf Coast Division
Lake Charles, La.
It's interesting that police departments and federal agencies are investigating whether their airborne crews can use force from above ("Confronting the Inevitable," July 2004, page 34).
With the threats we face today, why wouldn't you make the most use of the tools at your disposal? Imagine the media feeding frenzy and politicians' outcrys that would follow if a police helicopter crew was in position to stop a terrorist attack but didn't.
As the article states, the odds are great that a police helicopter will be one of the first units on the scene and in the most advantageous position. A properly trained crew could intervene with little threat to the public. But airborne use of force will never happen, at least not for civilian police departments.
Look at what happens to a cop on the street who shoots and kills a suspect. His actions are immediately second-guessed by the media. Politicians call for his head. He's raked over the coals internally, and if there's a hint of a question about whether the shooting was justified it's better than even odds that his bosses will abandon him. He and his department are sued by the survivors. And he and his family have to go to bed at night wondering whether he'll face criminal charges.
This is why many police officers are reluctant to draw their weapon unless they absolutely have to. It's a sad state of affairs. But why would any cop want to subject himself and his family to that torture.
I'm not saying police shootings shouldn't be reviewed vigorously, just that those reviews too often go to the extreme.
A lot of things have to happen for use of force to become a sanctioned option for airborne units. Superior officers have to agree to develop tactics and training for airborne use of force. Municipal lawyers have to sign off on the use of such tactics and procedures. Politicians must demonstrate a willingesss to stand up to the media and civil-rights activists and agree to back and fund the effort.
Collectively, that is just too tall an order.
Life in America may have changed after September 11th, but it hasn't changed that much that lawyers, politicians and bureaucrats will change their stripes and become bold in embracing new, provocative approaches to public safety. Airborne use of force is far from inevitable, at least for civilian police departments in the United States.
Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y.
Airborne use of force by police departments is long overdue.
Aviation units can respond quickly. They have abilities to assess a situation that no ground unit could match. They can intervene to stop a crime without jeopardizing innocent bystanders. This is all assuming airborne crews have the right training, the right tactics, the right tools and the support of higher-ups (both police and civilian).
I can appreciate Capt. James Di Giovanna's hope that we don't have to live in a world that depends on civilian airborne use of force. Unfortunately, we already do. We can either give aviation units the support and resources they need now or await the day when we wish we had.
North Bergen, N.J.
It's good to see the U.S. Army learning the lessons of the first Gulf War and being proactive in rehabilitating combat aircraft returning from Iraq and Afghanistan ("Ship Out, Shape Up," July 2004, page 46).
Certainly that effort will benefit from experience that will allow maintenance teams to reduce the time required to have Apaches, Blackhawks, Chinooks and Kiowa Warriors ready to return to service. I'm curious, though, as to how the ongoing tempo of operations in Iraq is easing the workload of the Reset Program teams. Extended deployments of aviation units there must be reducing the backlog of aircraft that need to be "reset" immediately, which in turn must ease the pressure on the program folks.
Steve Townes and his team at Keystone Helicopter have an intriguing strategy for dominating maintenance in the helicopter industry ("Size Matters," June 2004, page 17). It obviously remains to be seen whether it will work.
Consolidation may have worked in the airline maintenance industry (though there were a lot of hangars left empty by the consolidation of airlines themselves and the aftermath of September 11th). I'm not sure the business model applies to helicopters, though.
Sure, owners and operators send their engines all over for repair and overhaul. But in a business in which the average operator has five or fewer aircraft, decisions on other maintenance can very much be a matter of who you know and who you trust. It doesn't make a damn bit of difference to me how big your outfit is or how much capability it has if you can't return my helicopter to service on time and on cost.
It'll be interesting to see if Townes can corral enough of the small operators that make up much of this industry into a market slice big enough to sustain his dreams.