Baltimore Police Unveil New Helicopters

The four new helicopters cost $9.5 million and replace aircraft that have been in service since 2001.

Baltimore City police flight officers Matthew Hart and Cory Gronchowski said the hardest part of flying over a city is finding an emergency landing spot that won’t put anyone on the ground in jeopardy if there’s a problem. 

"Where can I go in case of an emergency?" Hart asked rhetorically.

But with the arrival of a new fleet of four new Eurocopter EC 120 helicopters, aka "Foxtrot," they have a little more peace of mind that something won’t go wrong while flying over Baltimore.

In 1998, a police helicopter crashed during a chase killing Flight Officer Barry Wood.

Starting last week, the police department started receiving new helicopters—at a cost of $9.5 million—to replace the fleet that has been in service since 2001. The old helicopters have been disassembled and traded in.

"The airframe is the same. This is the same helicopter as we had before. What’s different is that we have a new camera system and a new computer system, and a rear TFO station for our tactical flight officers," said Lt. Don Bauer, commander of the aviation unit. "Now we have a lot better range on our camera, we can basically fly a lot higher, see a lot more, capture video better."

Bauer explained that it was more cost effective to replace the aircraft because they were coming up on a very expensive mandatory inspection, and that parts on the older aircraft were going to begin to wear out and need to be replaced, making it cheaper to get new helicopters.

"A lot of the cost of the aircraft was the new technology, the camera systems, the computer systems, and the tactical flight officer’s station in the rear," Bauer said. "So those are items that would need to be replaced on the old aircraft anyway."

Bauer said the helicopters make it safer for officers on the street because they have the ability with the new cameras to lock on to a target and stay with them during a chase or a fight with a suspect.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the helicopters have been valuable assets, doing everything from pursuing dirt bikes to finding marijuana grows in the city.

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Christian August 24, 2012 at 01:39 PM
I am somewhat confused by the article in that these helicopters replaced ones that were built and in service in 2001 and that the statement was made that the old ones were "disassembled and traded in", which would indicate that the price for the four helicopters is not $9.5 million but some greater figure with the net price apparently being the figure stated. In my humble opinion I don't think that helicopters in use since 2001 are considered old helicopters and that the cost for the mandatory inspection work could easily be accomplished at considerably less than the adjusted purchase price of $9.5 million. There is a facility in the midwest that does this type of mandatory inspection work for approximately $250,000. each which is required by the Federal Government and this same mandatory inspection work will be required at specific intervals in the future. While there are add ons to the helicopters, such could not justify the expense of this purchase and the loss of use of the "old" helicopters.
Jim Hickman c August 25, 2012 at 12:21 PM
As a government aviation contractor, I can tell you what the private sector does. We have our old aircraft overhauled to new standards and upgrade the avionics and camera systems. This is exactly what will happen with the aircraft traded in. Likely an operator like myself will purchase it and operate it for many years. Planning may have been the problem. You must anticipate the down time and expense ahead and then cycle the fleet, so not to have any more than 1 in overhaul at a time.
Christian August 25, 2012 at 12:51 PM
As a retired representative for Korean Underwriters who shipped aircraft to this country for the mandatory inspections required by their country, the aircraft is then repaired after the inspection takes place and any new electronics required, including camera systems are installed. The safe operation of this aircraft depends on these mandatory inspections and the Federal guidelines that require them. Some of the aircraft still flying and in service dates back to the 1970's. The planning issue could have been resolved by sending one aircraft at a time for the mandatory inspections, so that you keep your fleet up to date, thus saving you considerably.
DB August 28, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Geez some of you people expect the City Government to act like it really cares about how it throws the taxpayer's money away. Really, I just happen to have this bridge for sale????
Christian August 28, 2012 at 01:00 PM
I am not too sure how you equate "cares about how it (city government) throws taxpayer's money away" with a concern that that the money appears to not have been spent a little more wisely. Some of us were simply attempting to offer our thoughts on this subject which is the reason for these comments sections being available.


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