By By Ernie Stephens, Editor-at-Large | September 1, 2011
New Orleans was the site of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association’s 41st Annual Convention and Exposition, which ran from July 20th through 23rd. Co-hosted by the Louisiana State Police, the event drew both helicopter and fixed-wing aircrews from across North America for seminars, exhibits and social events.
Line aircraft from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies were placed on display by AgustaWestland, American Eurocopter, Bell, Enstrom, MD and Sikorsky in the 300x360 foot exhibit hall of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, along with over 170 suppliers of mission avionics, flight apparel and training devices. All tolled, approximately 1,200 attendees descended upon “The Big Easy” to see the exhibits, and participate in a host of free seminars covering nearly everything from water egress training to ALEA’s first certification class for users of thermal imaging equipment.
During the grand opening, Col. Michael D. Edmonson, commissioner of the Louisiana State Police, took the podium to welcome the organization, and to acknowledge the contributions made by law enforcement aviators in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in 2005. Some of the crewmembers who participated in the rescue and recovery efforts were in attendance. “Eighty-five percent of [New Orleans] was underwater,” said Edmonson. “And when the call went out for help, you rose to the occasion and came here, and I appreciate that.”
Reminders of the slow economy and its impact on public safety aviation units may have been present at ALEA’s gathering. For the first time in at least five years, the event did not include the splash and fanfare of manufacturers’ deliveries of new aircraft to police and sheriff departments. While acknowledging that sales are slow, a representative from one of the helicopter companies, who asked not to be identified, blamed poor timing for the lack of new handover ceremonies. “We’ve sold some new police aircraft,” the employee said. “But in our case, we either delivered them well before the date of the show, or the customers were unable to spare the people or the aircraft to come here for a formal handover.”
ALEA’s next conference will be held in Reno, Nev. from July 11-14, 2012.
Attendees at the 41st annual ALEA convention inspect an American Eurocopter AS350 flown in by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, one of many police aircraft on static display during the two-day event. Elsewhere in the convention center, participants found a wide variety of seminars pertaining to airborne crime fighting.