The Duke Rides Patrol On Orange County (Ca.) Sheriff's Helicopter
Yes the Duke still rides, only now he rides shotgun with deputies of the Orange County California Sheriff's Aviation Unit. The call sign for the Orange Co. SO helicotpers is appropriately "Duke I" and Duke II" depending on which of their two EC AS350B2 helicopters is in the air at the time. The unit operates out of John Wayne Airport in Costa Mesa Ca, hence another good reason to pay tribute to the great American actor.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office began their air unit in 1985 when they received two MD500E helicopters. During ceremonies in May of 1985 the two new helicopters were dedicated to the memory and spirit of John Wayne, according to the unit's website. That may explain why the helicopter depicted with the actor in the above photo resembles an MD500 more than an ASTAR.
In 1998 the unit upgraded to the MD600N (notar) becoming the first agency in the country to utelize this particular helicopter in a law enforcement role.
By March of 05 change was in the air again as the unit received their first EC AS350B2. The second one arrived one year later effectively replacing the two 600's.
The unit is made up of a Sergeant, a Lieutenant, and 9 deputies of which 4 are pilots and 5 are observers or tactical flight officers. They patrol the skies over Orange County 7 days a week from early morning until late into the night providing cover and assistance to ground units throughout the county.
So the next time you are driving through Orange County, remember the Duke may really be watching you from above.