PUBLIC SERVICE | POLICE
The Houston Police Dept. has received approval to increase its airborne patrol fleet from six helicopters to 13, with the first ones scheduled to arrive sometime next month.
The department has four MD Helicopters MD-500Es and two Schweizer Aircraft 333s for patrol and three Schweizer 300s for training. It already has one MD-500E on order, and is to order one a month for eight months starting in November. All five Schweizers are to be sold due to their high time. They would be replaced by two new 300Cs next month, plus one in September. The 300Cs will serve as trainers. The fleet upgrade and expansion is projected to cost $18.3 million payable over 15 years, and includes the latest in airborne law enforcement search, illumination and communications equipment.
"It’s near miraculous," said Capt. Tom Runyan, who will soon takeover command of the aviation operation. The purchase "is the boldest move I’ve seen from a mayor since the 1970s, as it relates to helicopter patrol service. It’s a significant boost in capabilities." Houston Mayor Bill White has committed to restoring police air mobility. — Ernie Stephens