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Pennsylvania State Police To Fly the 407GX


FORT WORTH, TEXAS (July 22, 2014) – Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. company (NYSE: TXT), announced today the delivery of the first two of six Bell 407GX helicopters to the Pennsylvania State Police. They will be used for airborne law enforcement patrol and will serve citizens throughout the Commonwealth.

“We operate six aviation patrol units across the state and provide aerial support to all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies within the Commonwealth,” said Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan. “It is very important that we have modern, reliable and mission-ready helicopters to patrol and serve the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

The fleet routinely patrols the entire coverage area; however, specific patrol units are strategically situated so that response time anywhere with the patrol zone is minimal.

Several new components on each ship will enable the Pennsylvania State Police flight crews to more rapidly and effectively pinpoint exact ground locations from the air as well as provide for interoperable radio communications with ground-based first responders, which operate on a multitude of radio frequencies. The new capabilities also provide real time situational awareness to incident commanders and first responders during times of critical incidents or disasters. These systems will aid in public information and warning, operational coordination, intelligence and information sharing, criminal activity interdiction and disruption, screening, search and detection

“We are honored to have the Pennsylvania State Police as one of our law enforcement customers, and we give our sincere thanks for their ongoing trust in Bell Helicopter products,” said Anthony Moreland, managing director of North American sales at Bell Helicopter. “The Bell 407 has proven its law enforcement capabilities throughout the world and we know it will serve the Commonwealth well.”

Bell Helicopter has supported the Pennsylvania State Police since 1969 when it delivered two Bell 47s, the first Bell helicopters to be part of an airborne law enforcement team. Since then, Bell Helicopter has strived to provide innovative product solutions and the best customer support and service to maintain its valued, long-standing relationship with the Pennsylvania State Police. Bell Helicopter has approximately 450 aircraft serving law enforcement needs in the United States, with customers including the Georgia Department of Public Safety, Los Angeles Police Department and New York State Police.

The Bell 407GX delivers power and speed with a smooth, quiet ride and a spacious cabin that accommodates six passengers. The aircraft also features the fully-integrated Garmin G1000HTM flight deck, providing critical flight information at a glance for greater situational awareness and increased safety. The Bell 407GX flight deck's high resolution LCD screens host primary flight and multi-function display information, including Helicopter Terrain Avoidance Warning System, Helicopter Synthetic Vision TechnologyTM, Traffic Information Systems and more. The 407GX also features a tail rotor camera, allowing the pilot a clear view of the tail during take-offs and landing. 

Can This Cutting Edge Gyrocopter Find It's Way Into Law Enforcement Aviation?

New Law Enforcement Gyrocopter Under Development In NZ.

Whether you are a helicopter pilot or just a serious rotor wing fan you most likely already possess a basic understanding of gyroplane (or gyrocopter) technology.  If you do then you know that not only did the gyroplane precede the helicopter, but it was the gyroplane that gave birth to the helicopter.    And, if you are a helicopter pilot then you have already accepted the premise that gyroplane flight principles are sound, since it is this same state of auto-rotation that you hang your life on if and when the engine quits.  The gyrocopter or gyroplane is already in a state of auto-rotation so there is not dropping the collective and throwing in a bunch of right pedal.  You simply focus on looking for your spot where you are going to set it down.

The XTRE composite built, diesel powered, gyrocopter with Orange County Sheriff paint scheme.But, if the word gyrocopter stirs up images of seemingly dangerous flying contraptions, piloted by wild eyed- over the hill pilots from out of the way air strips, then you are not alone.  That is the perception by much of the flying community.  Even to discuss gyrocopters in the company of other helicopter pilots is likely to cause a serious chuckle if not outright laughter.  But if the gyrocopter is based on sound and relatively safe principles of flight, then why has it been relegated almost exclusively to the home built, experimental crowd? 

There is really only one reason why gyrocopters and gyroplane technology have been pushed to the back corners of aviation.  Because from the moment Igor Sikorsky perfected the vertical lift helicopter as we know it today, gyrocopters became outdated and old school.   All major research, development and investment since that time have taken place in the helicopter industry.  Gyroplanes quickly became the forgotten technology.   For that reason there are no FAA certified, production gyrocopters being sold in the United States of America today.  One could certainly make the argument that if there was a demand for these aircraft, then an aviation company somewhere would invest the money in the certification process and start producing and selling them.


Is Gyrocopter Technology Set To Make A Comeback?      

Is it possible we have reached a point where helicopters have become so expensive to purchase and operate, that the more affordable gyrocopter can make a comeback?  If there was a certified production gyrocopter, with a financially stable company standing behind it, would city or county governments and law enforcement agencies be willing to take a chance on it?     

There is a small startup aviation company in New Zealand who is gambling that they will. But before we jump into this new aircraft that is on the drawing boards, let’s take a serious look at who could potentially benefit from the significantly more affordable gyro technology.

I won’t rehash all the differences between helicopters and gyrocopters, but for the benefit of some of our younger readers let’s cover the basics.

Helicopters can hover, lift off vertically, fly forward, backward or sideward, and land without runways.  Gyrocopters do not hover, and must stay in forward flight much like an airplane.  With current jump technology many gyrocopters can lift off vertically then immediately go into forward flight, so that a standard runway is not necessary.  Helicopters have a powered main rotor that pulls the helicopter through the air, while the gyrocopter has an unpowered main rotor in a constant state of autorotation, and is thrust through the air by a pusher propeller mounted behind the aircraft.  

While helicopters enjoy many advantages such as the ability to do precision hover work, they are also very expensive to operate, and require a high level of skill to fly and stay proficient in.  They also have a tail rotor, what some have called the helicopter’s Achilles heel. 

Gyrocopters on the other hand are much cheaper to operate because they have far less moving parts and critical components.  Some would argue that they are actually safer because they do not have a tail rotor and are not susceptible to the condition known as LTE or Loss of Tail Rotor Effectiveness.  They are also a much more stable platform from which to work.

Looking at it from strictly a law enforcement perspective any agency that spends the bulk of their patrol time orbiting police calls over major population centers would be a potential customer or operator.  In contrast, any agency that regularly conducts search and rescue operations, or that routinely lands off field, would probably not be a good candidate. 

But ponder this question for a moment.  How many city police departments would consider starting up their own air unit if they could acquire a certified production gyrocopter at a fraction of the cost of a helicopter, and operate it for as little as $50 to $70 an hour?   I would venture to guess that a significant number of cities, not only in America but around the world, would be open to exploring the benefits of an air unit with these kinds of numbers. 

There’s a group of forward thinking aviation experts in New Zealand who are betting on the same thing and are moving forward on a two place diesel powered gyrocopter designed specifically for the law enforcement market. 


The XTRE Police Gyrocopter:

The ‘XTRE’ is not a converted civilian aircraft; in fact there are no immediate plans to even offer the aircraft to the civilian market. This gyrocopter is being specifically designed for the Law Enforcement- Military roles it will undertake. It will carry the necessary FAA certificates that will it make acceptable to every Law Enforcement operator in the world, placing it in a certificated class rather than the experimental class.

The developers stress the XTRE is not a replacement for the helicopter, rather an aircraft that can work alongside it as a cost effective alternative.  The XTRE will be able to perform the vast majority of the patrol-surveillance-traffic monitoring roles currently carried out by helicopters. The developers firmly believe the pilot remains core to conducting effective air operations, thus allowing the XTRE to go places and deliver missions, which a UAV simply cannot go. “In our opinion, the situational awareness of two flight crew above an event is unmatched compared to that of a person sitting behind a screen many miles away from that same event” says the developer.

The XTRE will be built using the latest in carbon fiber-Kevlar honeycomb composite technology, producing an amazingly strong, durable and lightweight airframe matching the best of any helicopter design. The XTRE is a large aircraft standing 10ft tall and 18ft long, with it’s size comparable to a Robinson R44. This size provides the two person flight crew with a big, comfortable environment in which to work. The pilot cockpit will feature IFR, ‘Glass panel’ avionics, digital engine/systems monitoring panels and Nav/radio systems to client requirements.

The rear cockpit is set up as a complete surveillance monitoring center. The TFO systems operator has large flat screen panels to monitor the information displayed from the on board cameras.  Industry standard radio systems will enable communication with ground units, relaying of live video imaging to ground stations, data transfer and storage within onboard computers will also be provided. The modern UAV market makes it possible for the XTRE to utilize the sophisticated surveillance equipment carried onboard such aircraft which are extremely efficient, very compact and lightweight.

But the benefits don’t stop there.  The XTRE will be powered by a lightweight Turbocharged Diesel engine making it extremely fuel efficient and able to use Bio-fuels, producing a minimal carbon footprint. One of the main features of this aircraft is the efforts being made to keep it quiet, so that when airborne it will have an extremely low noise signature.

A special engine exhausts muffler system, reduction gearbox, and a unique New Zealand designed propeller all help to cut noise significantly. The three (3) high inertia composite blades are attached to an adjustable pitch rotor head allowing near vertical takeoff and landing and very smooth in-flight characteristics. Also in keeping with its role, the landing gear is no nonsense- high impact absorbing, allowing for landing on rough un-prepared surfaces or hard landings without damage.

The XTRE will offer a viable, purpose built alternative to the use of both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft for those agencies whose mission profile matches that of the XTRE.

And just in case you are wondering what the Kiwi’s know about building aircraft, you might want to take a glance at the growing and cutting edge aviation industry in New Zealand.  Here are just a few facts:


New Zealand Aviation Industry Facts:

  • Over 1,000 aircraft have been manufactured in New Zealand.
  • New Zealand's aviation industry generated $9.7 billion in revenue in 2009, with $5.6 billion from domestic activities and $3.8 billion from exports, and has more than 1,000 aviation-related organizations employing 23,525 staff who are paid wages and salaries estimated at $1.3 billion.
  • The industry is conservatively forecast to grow to $12.6 billion by 2015.
  • New Zealand Aluminium Smelters supplies very high grade aluminium for use in the aerospace industry including on the wings of Airbus’s new 380 super jumbo wings.
  • Strengths in the use of advanced composite materials that first evolved in New Zealand’s world-leading marine industry are reaching new levels of sophistication in the aviation industry. Falcomposite has developed a fully aerobatic sports aircraft kit made up of about 20 structural components that are fast and easy to assemble.
  • Based at Ardmore in Auckland, Airwork NZ is one of only three companies worldwide approved to overhaul Eurocopter gearboxes and is an approved Honeywell maintenance centre for small turbine engines. The fixed wing division provides maintenance for Fairchild Metros, Fokker F27s and Boeing 737s.
  • New Zealand is home to both the P-750 XSTOL Turbine powered, FAA certified, 10 seat utility aircraft, as well as the revolutionary composite built KC518 Turbine powered helicopter recently unveiled at Osh Kosh.

Don’t bother looking for an XTRE Gyrocopter website just yet, because you won’t find one.  At this point the developers are focused on keeping the project moving forward.  I must say that I am very excited about this aircraft and the potential it offers to Law Enforcement around the world.  Perhaps one day I will be able to file a first-hand report on its flight characteristics.

Inquiries related to the XTRE can be directed to xtre@xtra.co.nz


Feds Don't Take Kindly To Messing With Aircraft

I am not sure what the atmosphere was like prior to September 11th 2001, but I can tell you that post 9/11 the Federal Bureau of Investigation takes any incidents of assaults on aircraft seriously.  Whether that is shooting at an aircraft, or pointing a laser at an aircraft.

Now to be honest, there are so many laser incidents that I don't really get excited about reporting them anymore.  You sometimes wonder if reporting them does more harm than good anyway.

Regardless, an Orlando Florida man just felt the wrath of the Federal Justice System when he was sentenced this week to 12 1/2 years in Federal Prison for shooting at an Orange County Florida Sheriff's helicopter back in March of 2010.  The suspect, 27 year old Jason Dennis McGuire, was presumably upset about the helicopter noise, but tried to convince the jury that he was suicidal and just fired the gun up in the air, and into a palm tree. 

Not buying his argument the jury convicted McGuire on charges of attempted destruction of an aircraft, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and for using a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. 

Twelve years in prison is a pretty serious (although well deserved) price to pay for one moment of felony stupidity. 

Source:  Orlando Sentinel

LAPD Helicopter Struck by Gunfire Over Van Nuys

Glen Grossman photo: LAPD Patrol HelicopterAn 18 year old Van Nuys resident was in custody just after 6:00 am on Easter Sunday morning after police received a call of the subject firing a gun into the air from his front lawn.  As police officers arrived on scene, along with the Los Angeles Police Helicopter, the subject began shooting at the helicopter.

According to an L.A. Times report, officers on the ground witnessed the suspect firing at the helicopter.  The suspect, Danny Lopez, was quickly tackled by his own family members  preventing further violence.  The helicopter, struck in the fuel tank, made an emergencly landing at near by Van Nuys Airport.  The police pilot and tactical flight officer were uninjured, but confirmed that the helicopter was hit by rifle fire. 

LAPD maintains one of the largest municipal police helicopter fleets in the world with the following helicopters; 12 Aerospatiale B-2 Astars, 4 Bell 206 Jet Rangers, 1 UH-1H "Huey" heliocpter, and 1 King Air 200 Fixed Wing.  In the last few years LAPD returned to a more traditional black & white patrol car type paint sceme for their fleet of patrol helicopters.

Police Helicopter Crews "Tweeting" From All Across The UK

South Yorkshire Police Helicopter: Photo- BBC NewsLaw Enforcement helicopter units have often sought ways to improve public relations, particularly when it comes to budget crunch time.  In fact many units no longer in existence wish they would have done a better job at garnering public support while the opportunity existed.   Understandably, it would not have saved every unit that has been cut due to budget issues, but strong public support for your air ops unit can never be a bad thing.

Many police aviation units in the UK have been under the budget ax just like units on this side of the pond.  In an effort for the public to better understand exactly what these police aviation units are doing, many in the UK have taken to tweeting about their routine calls, to include rescues, suspect searches and vehicle pursuits. 

West Midlands Air Support Unit

One of the units leading the “tweeting” charge is the West Midlands Police Air Support unit who began posting updates earlier this month.  In as little as 10 days the unit had more than 500 followers and had posted over 100 messages on their Twitter Account. 

West Midlands Air Support Unit Sgt. Dave Mitchell states that it gives the public and taxpayers insight into what the unit does and how their tax money is being spent.  He goes on to point out something that anyone who has ever been a member of a police air unit knows, that the crew members of law enforcement helicopters have very little public contact during normal operations. 

Think of it this way;  Most law enforcement air units are located at secure airport facilities where the public there is little to no access.  Most police air unit members show up on calls at 500’ agl, and leave the scene at the same altitude.  Even when the helicopter lands and makes contact such as in a rescue situation, the helicopter noise along with the air crew’s helmets with face shields often prevent the victim from knowing the names of their rescuers, or even what they look like. It would seem that giving the public a way to interact with law enforcement air crews would have a net positive result.

In the case of West Midlands Police, who fly a Eurocopter EC-135 worth about $5 million, Sgt. Mitchell believes that it is not only important to provide the public with more information, but also a way for the public to provide feedback.  Twitter helps to do both of these.  Lastly, Sgt. Mitchell points out that all Twitter updates are done after the crew lands, and the helicopter is shut down.  No Tweeting from the cockpits of police helicopters. 

South Yorkshire Police Helicopter Unit

Another UK police helicopter unit tweeting about their work is the South Yorkshire Police Helicopter Unit.  According to Sgt. Helen Scothern- Head of the South Yorkshire Police Air Ops Unit, most people associate the helicopter only with car chases and criminals on the run, but just as important is the role the helicopter plays in curbing anti-social behavior and intelligence gathering.  The South Yorkshire Police Air Unit covers Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster.  Last year the unit flew for around 1200 hours and responded to over 5,000 calls or events. 

East Midlands Air Support Unit

The East Midlands Air Support Unit is also getting in on the tweeting action.  Patrolling Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire from their MD902 and EC 135 (based out of Shoreham Airport & RAF Odiham respectively) the crew of East Midlands Air Support recently tweeted; ” Lutterworth waste recycling centre:  Report of crime in progress – burglary.”

Twitter search

A quick search of Twitter revealed a total of at least 7 UK police helicopter units currently tweeting about their patrol activities.  Here are the units I found along with their Twitter address;

West Midlands Police Air Support-           @WMP_Helicopter

South Yorkshire Police Air Ops Unit-        @SYP_Airops

East Midlands Air Ops Unit-                      @EMASUHelicopter

Cheshire Police Helicopter Unit-               @Cheshirecopter

Kent and Essex Police Helicopter-             @QH99

South & East Whales Air Support-             @Helicops

Wiltshire Joint Police & Ambulance Helicopter-  @Wiltsairambo

During the same Twitter search I was unable to locate even a single Police or Sheriff’s Unit in the U.S. where the actual crews are posting their activities to Twitter. 

Since most U.S. Law Enforcement Agencies have embraced social networking on some level, even if it is only to post traffic conditions, or missing persons at risk, I predict that it is only a matter of time before we see police air units in the U.S. using Twitter as a way to connect with the public about their law enforcement activities.

Sources:  The Coventry Telegraph; BBC News; Twitter.com

NTSB Updates Factual Report On Fatal CHP Air Crash

 CHP Officer Dan Benivides Pictured with his Cessna T206.

On February 23, 2011 the NTSB updated it's Factual Report on the fatal crash of a CHP Fixed Wing Cessna aircraft that crashed on May the 7th 2010 while on patrol in the area of Borrego Springs California.  

The pilot and sole occupant, CHP Officer Dan Benivides (39), stopped communicating with dispatch after working a speed detail with ground units.  A report of smoke eventually led searchers to the crash site on the side of a mountain in the area of Borrego Springs, in the north eastern portion of San Diego County.  Officer Benivides was fatally injured in the crash.

According to the NTSB's February 23rd update, Officer Benivides likely suffered a "cardiac event" prior to the crash, according to the San Diego County Coronor's Office.  The NTSB's factual report reads in part;

"In the medical examiner's opinion section of the report it states ".. it is possible that a cardiac event due to fibrosis and/or ischemia due to his longstanding coronary arthrosclerosis could have precipitated the crash." Updated on Feb 23 2011 2:00PM"

The following excerpt from the NTSB report talks about the final 4 minutes or so of the airplane's radar track just prior to the accident. 

"At 0940:43, the track turns southwest on a steady course of 225 degrees magnetic at 1,200 feet msl. This route was away from the highway and towards the rising mountainous terrain. The final radar return was at 0943:55, 1.7 miles northeast of the accident location. The accident location is located directly on the extended course line of 225 degrees from the last radar return, at the 1,070-foot elevation level. The highest terrain elevation in the vicinity of the accident site is 1,500 feet msl." 

The aircraft was also equipped with an auto pilot and according to CHP Officials the pilots are encouraged to use the auto pilot to lessen workload. 

The radar data coupled with the information from the San Diego County Coroner's Officer certainly leads one to conclude that the crash was most likely the result of a medical incapacitation of the pilot.  While this in no way lessens the tragedy of the loss of Officer Benivides, his family and co-workers can know that the crash was probably not pilot error, and that Officer Benivides was a professional and capable pilot and CHP Officer.

The following excerpt is from the Police Helicopter News Page and was written by me in the days following the crash:

"Officer Danny Benavides attended the 2005 CHP Air Crew course in San Diego with this writer.  Officer Benavides is the second law enforcement officer from the class of 2005 to lose his life in an air crash, the first being Deputy Kevin Patrick Blount of the Sacramento Sheriff's Office killed in the crash of his Eurocopter EC-120 helicopter on July 13th 2005.  The cause of that crash was determined to be a fuel control valve that was installed backwards at the factory.  Since 2005 Officer Benavidez had stopped into ASTREA base in his CHP fixed wing on several occassions all of which involved great conversation, swapping of airborne law enforcement stories, and a many laughs.  On at least one occassion I had taken over a vehicle pursuit from Officer Benavidez south bound on the I-15.  His voice was one that I could always recognize when it came up on the air.  It will be missed.  Police Helicopter Pilot.com sends it's condolences to the Benavides family."


NTSB Releases Preliminary Report On Pima County Sheriff Helicopter Crash

While I know it is best to wait for the full report and all of the facts.  It is still human nature to ask what went wrong.  I am asking myself if this was a tail rotor strike.......

NTSB Identification: WPR11GA115
14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Monday, January 31, 2011 in Marana, AZ
Aircraft: MCDONNELL DOUGLAS HELI CO 369FF, registration: N530RL
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 Serious, 1 Minor.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On January 31, 2011, about 1115 mountain standard time, a McDonnell-Douglas 369FF helicopter, N530RL, was substantially damaged during an attempted pinnacle landing on Waterman Peak near Marana, Arizona. The pilot received fatal injuries, two passengers received serious injuries, and one passenger received minor injuries. The public-use flight was operated by the Pima County Sheriff's Department (PCSD) in support of the Pima County Wireless Integrated Network (PCWIN) communications development project. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight.

The purpose of the flight was to enable PCWIN personnel to conduct a site survey for the planned installation of a communications-repeater tower. The helicopter departed Tucson International Airport (TUS), Tucson, Arizona, about 1050, with the PCSD pilot/deputy in the left front seat, two Pima County employees in the right front and rear seats, and a private contractor in the left rear seat. Initially, the flight was in communication with, and being tracked by, TUS local and TRACON air traffic control (ATC) facilities as it headed for the peak, located about 30 miles west-northwest of TUS.

The 1053 TUS recorded weather observation included winds from 300 degrees at 9 knots with gusts to 16 knots; visibility 10 miles; and a broken cloud layer at 7,000 feet.

The passengers reported that during the landing attempt, the helicopter either bounced or the pilot lifted off again, the nose pitched down, and then the helicopter began to spin to the right.

The helicopter tumbled and slid about 120 feet down the northeast face of the peak before it was halted by rocks and scrub vegetation.

A ground-based witness located about 1,000 feet west of and below the peak stated that the helicopter completed about four or five rotations before it disappeared from his view.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records indicated that the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument-helicopter ratings, and a private pilot certificate with airplane single and multiengine land ratings. According to the pilot's personal flight log, he had approximately 11,500 total hours of flight experience, most of which was in helicopters. His first recorded flight in the accident helicopter make and model was in August 2008, and he had logged about 186 total hours in that equipment. In January 2011, excluding the accident flight, the pilot logged 6 flights, for a total of 7.5 hours, in the accident helicopter make and model. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued in February 2010. According to PCSD information, the pilot joined PCSD in November 2008, and had about 30 years experience flying helicopters for the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department.

The helicopter was manufactured in 1998, and was registered to Pima County in 2008. The helicopter's most recent annual inspection was completed in April 2010, and it had accumulated about 115 hours in service between that inspection and the accident. The helicopter was equipped with an Allison (Rolls-Royce) 250-C30 series turbine engine.

During the follow-up investigation, the engine was removed and prepared for a test-run. During the test run, the engine developed rated power, and engine performance exceeded minimum values for overhauled engines, and no anomalies were noted.

Info On Current Police Helicopter Activity May Be Coming To Your Computer Soon!

Sacramento P.D. OH-58 Helicopter on patrol.Sir Robert Peel, considered by most to be the founder of the first organized police department was once quoted as saying "The Police are the public and public are the police; The police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interest of community welfare and existence."

Every law enforcement officer understands that cooperation from the public is vital when it comes to solving crimes, catching the perpetrator, and suppressing crime. 

When it comes to police helicopters one of the most vital pieces of equipment on board is the public address system (P.A.).  Kevin Means of the San Diego Police Air Support Unit, a recognized expert in FLIR operations, goes so far as to call the P.A. the "day time FLIR."  That is how successful the P.A. is in locating wanted suspects, missing kids, and missing elderly subjects. 

It makes sense to go a step further and disseminate current information to the public, when the police helicopter is going to be spending any significant amount of time working a call in your neighborhood.  After all, the police helicopter is already disseminating the information directly to the public in the form of those P.A. announcements. 

The Sacramento Police Department is leading the way (at least in the U.S.) in what is sure to be a new trend in airborne law enforcement.  That is, publishing current information on it's website anytime the Sacramento Police Helicopter is orbiting a call for any significant amount of time.  Citizens can go to the Sacramento Police Department's website and click on the "Helicopter Activity" bar on the left side of the page.  Citizens will generally get the type of call is being worked, along with descriptions of fleeing suspects or missing kids, etc. 

One might wander why this is necessary if the helicopter is already announcing the information over the P.A. system.  Well on many police helicopters the speaker is directed down and out of the co-pilot's or observer's side of the helicopter toward the center of the orbit or search area.  Consequently people on the outside of the orbit often cannot understand what is being broadcast.  The result is calls flooding into the communications center from citizens complaining that they can't understand what is being said, and wanting to know what is going on in their neighborhood. 

Publishing this information online is smart, keeps the public informed, and overall enhances the effectiveness of the police on the ground and in the air. 

I have already heard that our own agency is working on a similar solution, but I do not have the details or a time frame as of yet. 

In the U.K. both the  West Yorkshire Police Dept. and the Northamptonshire Police Department have similar programs.

More and more police agencies today are using Twitter and Facebook to update the public on current police activity to include traffic accidents etc.  I predict it is only a matter of time before the vast majority of police agencies with an air support unit follow suit. 

In addition to keeping the public informed and helping to find fleeing suspects etc., there is one more huge benefit to this.  Though most citizens support their local police aviation unit, there are those who view them as nothing more than noisy and costly good old boy flying clubs.  While we won't convert everyone, letting the public see in real time the types of calls the aviation unit is assisting, will most likely have a net positive result. 

Partial Settlement Reached In Silver State Helicopter Scam

When Silver State Helicopters abruptly declared bankruptcy in February of 2008 it was the final push for me to launch this website and begin blogging about Police Helicopters.  My very first blog entry was published on 2-8-08 and was titled "Silver State Helicopters Dashes Student Pilot's Dreams."

Silver State was loosely tied to law enforcement aviation in a couple of ways.  First the founder, Jerry Airola, was a former Law Enforcement Officer from the State of California and secondly, one of the false promises he used to pull in new students was promises of jobs as police helicopter pilots.  Airola, through his company turned out to be quite the con artist.  I had already reached the conclusion that there was a real lack of information on how one becomes a police helicopter pilot, and Silver State's false promises simply confirmed my belief.

One of Silver State's training locations just happened to be a few buildings away from our base at Gillespie Field in El Cajon Ca.  I can remember driving to work on more than one occasion, and hearing a jazzy radio commercial about the massive shortage of helicopter pilots, and police helicopter pilots.  Most people in the helicopter industry were not surprised at all when Silver State shut their offices without warning, and Jerry Airola slipped out of town. 

In a nutshell their scam was to bring in the new student, help him get a student loan, then get him to turn most or all of the funds over to Silver State very early on.  Silver State would then intentionally make it so difficult for the student to get any actual flight time, that many would throw up their hands and quit.  The student loan money was never refunded. 

A settlement announced this week with Student Loan Express, a member of the New York based CIT Group Inc., will forgive a total of $112.7 million in student loans which were made to student helicopter pilots enrolled in Silver State Helicopters flight schools. 

The settlement involves a total of 12 states which are;  California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. 

This decision will be welcome relief for many former Silver State students many of whom had loans approaching $50,000 dollars, but no pilot certificate to show for it. 

Sources:  Las Vegas Review-Journal, Associated Press, Aero-News.net

Texas DPS Helicopter Responds to Mexican Border During Shootout But Did Not Cross as Reported


Texas DPS AS 350B2 on display at the ALEA Conference 2009 in Savana Ga.An hour long shootout Wednesday afternoon between the Mexican Army and narcotic traffickers in Nuevo Laredo prompted the Texas DPS to send state troopers and a police helicopter to the border in case suspects tried to flee back into the U.S.

At least one news source, "My SA News" (San Antonio News)reported that the Texas DPS helicopter in fact responded across the border into Mexico to assist on the call.  This report not only grabbed my attention but also raised many questions, if in fact the report  was accurate.  What frequencies would the Texas DPS helicopter crew use to talk to the Mexican Army or Police?  What if the Tactical Flight Officer on the Texas DPS helicopter wasn't bi-lingual?  Would the Texas Department of Public Safety risk the safety of their crew and helicopter by sending them into the midst of a fire fight between the Mexican Army and Narco Traffickers in Mexico?  As a member of an air unit that also patrols along the U.S./Mexican Border, I could not imagine responding into Mexico for a shootout.   But, maybe they do things differently in Texas.

My inquiries Friday morning to the Captain on duty at the Texas DPS Communications Center evoked a slight chuckle, and an assurance that their helicopter did not respond into Mexico as had been reported.  He confirmed that they did respond to the border in Laredo, in case any suspects attempted to flee into the U.S.

According to authorities, the shootout in front of a day care center in the Nuevo Laredo community of Casa Geo, resulted in the deaths of several narco traffickers.  Two of the vehicles in which the suspects died, a Pontiac Grand Am and another white sedan, both bore Texas license plates. 

In addition to the Helicopter, Texas DPS sent approximately 20 troopers to monitor the border and the two border crossings, International Bridges I & II. 

Texas DPS operates a total of 22 aircraft which includes;  13- American Eurocopter AS 350B2's, 1- twin engine EC-145 helicopter, 7- Cessna fixed wing aircraft, and 1- Twin Engine Turbo Commander fixed wing aircraft.

Texas DPS also lays claim to operating the most technologically advanced single engine law enforcement helicopter in the world, an AS 350B2.

Yet Another Attack On A Police Helicopter In the U.K.

File photo of an EC 135 Police Helicopter in the U.K., photo courtesy Wikimedia.org Arpingstone.On Friday evening around 10:30 pm local time a group of three men wearing balaclavas (face masks) stormed a Mereyside Police helicopter parked at R.A.F. Base Woodvale.  The vandals smashed a window on the helicopter, poured fuel inside and attempted to torch it before being interrupted by officers on the base.

This is the third such attack on a police helicopter in the U.K. in about as many months. 

The incident Friday sparked an intense high speed 16 mile chase, that ended with one police car in flames and three suspects in custody.  A second police helicopter from another police force assisted in the search for the suspects, the pursuit, and ultimately the arrest. 

The Mereyside Police helicopter that was attacked is an EC 135 valued at approximately 2.9 million Euros.  The Euro Copter 135 is by far the most popular police helicopter in the U.K. 

Shortly after the incident a Mitsubishi Shogun ,which was suspected of being involved, was found in flames.  At about the same time a silver Audi A4 was observed leaving the vicinity at a high rate of speed.  Police gave chase and followed the car from the Southport area to the Liverpool City Center where the vehicle was abandoned in the Birkenhead Tunnel.  Subsequently a black Audi A8 sped out of the opposite side of the tunnel where upon the pursuit continued.

The black Audi eventually collided with a police vehicle on upper Hampton St., cause the police vehicle to burst into flames.  The officer was able to escape the burning vehicle with minor injuries.  Three male suspects, ages 24, 25 and 26 were arrested and booked into jail. 

Police Superintendent Jonathan Roy reassured the public that "highly effective air support was maintained throughout the operation."  It was only a few weeks ago that another police helicopter was grounded due to a fake bomb, while robbers used their own helicopter to carry out the heist of a money depot.

Mereyside Police is the territorial police force in North West England serving a population of approximately 1.5 million people. 

So far police have not speculated on a motive for the attack but vow to conduct a far reaching investigation that leaves no stone unturned. 

Sources:  Champion News, The Southport Visiter, The Liverpool Daily Post, Wikipedia.org.

Border Patrol Pilots Express Concern About MD600N Helicopter

BP MD600N, Gillespie Field, D. Weldon photo.PHP.com has learned that some Border Patrol pilots are expressing their concern about the apparent poor auto-rotational capabilities of the MD600N (no tail rotor) helicopter.  These concerns may very well have proven out this week when a Dept. of Homeland Security (BP) helicopter, being operated by a factory CFI, suffered a hard landing while conducting a simulated engine out auto-rotation.  The incident occurred on Monday the 12th,on runway 17/35 at Gillespie Field in El Cajon Ca, which just happens to be a stones throw from the San Diego Sheriff's ASTREA ramp.  The only other occupant of the helicopter at the time was the Border Patrol's Chief Pilot for the San Diego area.  No injuries were reported. 

The entire incident was caught on tape by other BP pilots who were filming the autos from the ground.  Speculation is that the filming was related to the BP pilots concern that the MD600 could not be successfully "auto'ed" in the event of an engine out.  At least at the altitudes, air speed, and weight at which most of their missions are performed.  It is likely these concerns were heightened after an engine out and a crash landing in the surf of another BP MD600N in February of this year.  In that incident the helicopter was destroyed and all three occupants suffered injuries.

For the record this writer has received auto-rotational training from this same CFI and can attest to his professionalism, outstanding skill level, and expert knowledge of MD Helicopters.  Which leaves one really wondering about the capabilities of this helicopter when the engine quits.

I have spoke many times on this site about the safety, ruggedness, and crash worthiness of the MD500 series helicopters.  Incidents like this do not change my confidence level in the MD500. 

The lingering question is; What is it about the MD600N that causes it to perform poorly during auto-rotation.  Well that would probably be a great question for an aeronautical engineer, and one that I do not have the answer to.  I do know that every helicopter has it's own auto-rotational characteristics and some are much better than others.  I hear that the R44 auto's great, but the R22 not so much.  The R22 looks like a scaled down version of the R44, so all things being equal it would seem that the R22 would auto just as nicely as the R44.  But that is simply not the case.  As helicopter pilots we are all familiar with the terms "high inertia" rotor systems and "low inertia" rotor systems.  Apparently the MD600N falls into the later category. 

Perhaps Monday's incident will pay dividends for the next BP pilot who happens to be at the controls when the engine quits.  Hopefully he or she will be strapped into something other than and MD600N.

Louisiana State Police Bring Air Support Back to Northern La.

Louisiana State Police Bell 430s, courtesy L.S.P.On Friday Sept. 25th Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson announced the return of the state police air support unit to northern Louisiana.  State Police will be basing one Bell Oh-58 police helicopter, and 1- Cessna 172 fixed wing aircraft out of the Ruston Regional Airport.

It has been 24 years since LSP had an air unit based out of this region.  If a local sheriff or police department was in need of air support during this time period, they would normally have to wait for a state police helicopter to respond from Alexandria LA., normally a 30-45 minute wait. 

The move back was made possible by a cooperative agreement between the Northern Louisiana Legislative Delegation and trucking magnate James Davison.  Davison will be offering free hangar space to the new unit at the Ruston Airport. 

The Louisiana State Police operate approximately 16 aircraft in total to include;  2 Bell 430 turbine helicopters (pictured above), 1- Bell 206L4 (Long Ranger), 1-Bell 206L3 turbine helicopter, 3- Bell OH-58 helicopters (military version of the 206), and 8- Cessna fixed wing aircraft which includes 172s, 182, and the 310.

In a time when many agencies are cutting back on their air support units it is nice to see an agency take steps to improve coverage.  Kudos to the Louisiana State Police, politicians and the citizens that made the move possible. 

Brazen Helicopter Heist in Stockholm Nets Millions

Stockholm Sweden is no stranger to bank robberies and heists.  After all it brought us the condition known as the "Stockholm Syndrome" wherein a hostage bonds with and then begins to protect their hostage taker.  But the pre-dawn heist yesterday from a G4S cash depot sets a new standard for thinking outside the box, in regards to planning and carrying out a bank heist.

Stockholm police arrived on scene to hear and see a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, with all of it's position and anti-collision lights turned off, in tight orbits over the cash depot building.  Police were not equipped to go up against the potentially heavily armed robbers who had smashed and exploded thier way into the building, after being lowered onto the roof by the helicopter.  Police were instead forced to maintain a perimeter on the building until a special police commando unit arrived on scene.  At that time the robbers, along with the stolen loot, were apparently hoisted back aboard the helicopter and flew away.

Swedish Police Helicopter, EC 135, wikimedia.comMeanwhile the Stockholm Police helicopter was grounded due to a strategically placed fake bomb, next to their aircraft.  There would be no Hollywood style helicopter vs. helicopter chase in the skies over the Swedish country side on this day.

The helicopter, which turned out to be stolen, was later discovered near a lake about 15 miles north of the city.  No arrest have been made but a large cash reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible has already been made.

Reports are that as much as $150 million could have been stored in the cash depot at the time of the heist.  The exact amount of money taken during the heist is still unknown at this time.  A million dollar reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.

While such a robbery has all the earmarks of a great Hollywood movie, along with a touch of genius, let's try to remember that a thief is a thief.  They take what does not belong to them, but what someone else has worked hard for.  Reservations are currently being prepared for the above thieves at a quaint prison somewhere in Sweden!

Shine Laser at Aircraft Go To Federal Prison!

I don't seem to recall exactly when hand held lasers became both cheap and popular, but since that time I would guess that there are few law enforcement helicopter crews in the country (probably throughout the world) who have not been hit with a laser at least once.  I have been in the cockpit at least three occasions when a laser beam began bouncing off of the windscreen, instrument panel, etc. 

There are multiple reasons why shining a laser (even a flashlight) at an aircraft is prohibited by both state and federal law, beginning with potential damage to the eye that a laser can cause.  Regardless, it seems that there are still plenty of people who are willing to direct their hand held laser or flashlight at an airliner or even a police helicopter with little thought that they really, really, might end up in prison.

Enter 30 year old Baltazar Valladares of Roseville Ca., near Sacramento, who was just sentenced to 37 months in Federal prison this week for targeting both a South West Airline flight coming into Sacramento International Airport, and a short time later hitting the Sacramento Sheriff's Helicopter with the same laser. 

Apparently the crew of the Sacramento Sheriff's helicopter was a little sharper than what Valladares expected as they quickly pinpointed the laser as coming from his residence.  It was not long before Roseville Police were knocking on his door, and subsequently conducting a legal search of his residence.  The laser was located in two separate pieces, hidden in two separate locations within the residence. 

The investigation into the incident was continued by the FBI as well as Roseville Police Dept., and even the Federal Air Marshals Service since it involved a passenger airliner.  The end result was the sentencing announced this week by U.S. Attorney Lawrence G. Brown.  Mr. Valladares will spend 37 months in Federal prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release.  I am sure that Valladares' prior criminal record did not do him any favors in avoiding a federal prison sentence.

Most police helicoper crews are now operating on night vision goggles.  Which means that shining a flashlight at a law enforcement helicopter is just as disruptive as a laser, considering the goggles are magnifying the light somewhere around 30,000 times.  Normally a stern warning over the P.A. of their pending felony arrest is enough to stop the behavior, but it distracts the crew and takes important time away from the police mission which very often involves searching for a violent fleeing felon. Unfortunately crime is inconvenient to everyone.

Let's hope that someday people will actually start to make the connection in their brain;  "Shine a laser or light at an aircraft, EXPECT to go to jail."

Chicago Police Department's Helicopter Task Force Continues to Prove Itself With Latest FLIR Find!

Chicago Police Dept.'s Bell Jet Ranger HelicopterOn Friday September 4th, just after midnight the Chicago Police Helicopter and crew continued to prove it's worth by locating a murder suspect hiding in the bushes, using the onboard thermal imaging device known as the FLIR. 

At about 1205 am police responded to a double stabbing on the city's south side.  An apparent dispute over money during a late night card game resulted in a 37 year old woman and her 22 year old son being stabbed.  The woman suffered stab wounds to the neck and later died of her injuries at a nearby hospital.  The son was expected to survive his injuries.

A helicopter and 3 man crew from CPD's Helicopter Task Force responded and began a FLIR search of the surrounding area. With Officer B. Raniere at the helicopter controls, Officer T. Bansley on the radios, and Officer E. Graney operating the FLIR thermal imager, the crew located then directed ground units to a subject who appeared to be hiding in bushes in the 7600 block of S. Paulina.  A 44 year old man, believed to be the stabber, was found hiding and taken into custody. Excellent work by both air and ground units!

For several decades Chicago was the only city out of "the largest 10 cities in America" who did not own or operate a single law enforcement helicopter.

The Chicago Police Department did in fact operate 2 helicopters during the 1970s but disbanded the unit in 1979 due to budgetary reasons. 

Chicago PD's helicopter unit was re-constituted in January of 2006 with the addition of a single Bell Jet Long Ranger helicopter.  By 2007 the helicopter underwent significant upgrades with the addition of a moving map system for navigating the city streets, and the Forward Looking Infrared camera system.  The department soon added a second helicopter, another Bell Jet Ranger which is outfitted with the same hi-tech equipment but even includes an Exploranium Gamma Radiation Detector for uses such as detecting dirty bombs. 

Shortly after the first high-tech upgrade the Chicago Police Helicopter Task Force utilized the new equipment to track down and help arrest a man wanted in the shooting of a Markham police officer, after the suspect had fled into a wooded area at night time.  During the same weekend, the same helicopter tracked a man who fled from a drug and weapons raid in Glenwood Ill, resulting in his arrest. 

Again, excellent work by the Chicago Police Helicopter Task Force!

Topeka Police Helicopter Unit- Victim of Budget Cuts

It may be an understatement to say that the Topeka Police Department Helicopter unit has been the most hotly debated law enforcement aviation unit in the country, at least for the past 2 years or so.  While the Topeka Police Chief has been a staunch supporter of the program, a significant portion of the community has made their distaste for the police helicopter unit well known.

The Topeka Air Support unit has had a number of setbacks over the 38 years it has been in existence.  Just 3 years after it's start in 1971, Officer Marcus Hodd was killed in the crash of his patrol helicopter, a Hughes 269C (Schweizer 300) on November 1st 1974.  The NTSB ruled that the crash was the result of an auto-rotation, with a high flare, and low rotor rpm.  The report stated that reason for the emergency landing was not determined. 

The Topeka Police Department continued to operate Hughes 269/Schweizer 300 helicopters for the next several decades.  However, on June 13th 2000 tragedy struck again when two Topeka police officers were fatally injured in the crash of their Schweizer 300 helicopter.

The 2000 crash was very likely the beginning of the end of the Topeka PD Air Support Unit.  While it is not the purpose of this website or this writer to critique other aviation units, the 2000 Topeka PD helicopter crash opened wide the doors of public scrutiny of the Topeka Police Air Support Unit.

Pilot Jeff Howey (37) and TFO Charles Bohlender (33) were assisting ground units on a night time, commercial burglary alarm at a Lowes home improvement store, when things turned deadly.  According to ground units and witnesses the helicopter was in a tight right orbit over the store, when it suddenly began spinning, then nose dived into the ground and burst into flames.  Both the pilot and TFO were killed on impact.

When questioned by NTSB investigators the Topeka PD's chief pilot stated that the Pilot In Command would have flown at 500' AGL while en-route to the call, but then would have descended to 200' and 50 knots over the incident in order to conduct the FLIR search.  Now while that combination of altitude and airspeed -while working a police call, at night time, is enough to make most helicopter pilots cringe, it was further determined that the PIC had a grand total of 148.9 hours in helicopters.  The TFO was non rated.  Sadly the results speak for themselves. 

The NTSB determined that the cause of the crash was "loss of tail rotor effectiveness" due to tight right turns with low forward airspeed, and probable loss of effective translational lift resulting in low rotor rpm.  The NTSB also cited the pilot's overall inexperience in helicopters as a contributing factor. 

There is little doubt that this incident invited intense public scrutiny of the Topeka Air Support Unit, and gave ammunition to it's detractors who would like to see the air unit's budget spent elsewhere.

However, the emergency landing & crash of Topeka's R-44 patrol helicopter, caught on surveillance video at Washburn University on the evening of April 5th 2008, was likely the nail in the coffin.  The video of the crash landing made national news and only intensified the debate of the Topeka Helicopter program, among the citizens of Topeka Ks.  The pilot in command was attempting to make a precautionary landing after experiencing high engine rpm and a low rotor rpm warning light.  During the precautionary landing in the parking lot of Washburn University, the helicopters main rotor struck a light pole, causing the helicopter to come to rest on it's side, with damage. 

The NTSB determined the cause of this incident to be a malfunctioning magneto which may have sent incorrect signals to the governor, this producing the high engine rpm and the low rotor rpm warning.  Contact with the light pole was seen as a contributing factor. 

The end came during the second and final hour of a budget session at city hall when the mayor proposed to remove the final $520,000 in funding for the program, and a city council member proposed to remove funding for the city's helicopter mechanic position.  Topeka's police chief expressed shock at the move and questioned whether political motivations were involved. 

While policehelicopterpilot.com is sad to see any law enforcement helicopter program disbanded, we do not presume to know what is best for the citizens of Topeka Ks. 

Three Officers Injured in LAPD Helicopter Crash Landing

file photo of LAPD Eurocopter AS350, Glen Grossman photo.Three LAPD officers suffered minor to moderate injuries Thursday afternoon while practicing "power off" auto-rotations at an airfield in Lancaster Ca. according to news reports and the FAA. 

The pilot-officers were training at the General William J. Fox Airfield 40 miles northeast of downtown LA when the incident occurred. 

According to one Los Angeles County fire official, at least one officer suffered moderate injures while two suffered minor injuries and all were transported.  The helicopter also suffered damage during the "hard" landing. 

An auto-rotation is an emergency procedure that allows helicopters to land safely in the event of complete engine failure.  It is the only thing that stands between life and death, in single engine helicopters when the engine fails.  It works every time when performed correctly.  But it also takes a significant amount of practice become proficient, and unfortunately training accidents sometimes occur when this skill is being transferred from the instructor to the student. 

News photos of the helicopter confirm it was a Eurocopter AS350, one of twelve operated by the department.  The photo also confirms that the helicopter suffered significant damage.

LAPD's air unit is considered the largest municipal police helicopter unit in the world, (South Africa boast a larger fleet but it is not considered municipal) operating a total of 17 helicopters.  Most are flown from LAPD's rooftop heliport in downtown LA.

PHP.com staff wishes a speedy recovery to the officers.

Arizona DPS Helicopter First to Locate Fatal Bi Plane Crash

File photo of a Boeing Stearman (E-75), Juergen Lehle photo wikimedia.orgON Tuesday August 4th just after 3:00 pm a bright yellow vintage bi-plane with two souls on board departed Cottonwood Airport in the mountains south of Flagstaff Az.  Within a few minutes, according to at least one witness, the engine was sputtering and the airplane appeared to go down over a ridgeline.

On board the 1943 Boeng E-75 was Edward Remiro (32) and his father Robert Romero (72), residents of a local Navajo Indian Reservations.  One or both Remiro's also maintained a home in San Diego Ca. as well. 

The elder Remiro died on impact, leaving the younger Remiro with serious injuries to call for help on his cell phone.  An Arizona Department of Public Safety Helicopter was dispatched to search for the crash, as the Edward Remiro was unable to pinpoint his exact location.

The crew of the DPS helicopter discovered the crash site at around 3:42 pm in a clearing just south west of Stoneman Lake and rendered treatment to the victims until medical personnel arrived.  Edward Remiro was evacuated by medical helicopter and is expected to survive his injuries. 

The cause of the crash is still being investigated.

Excellent work by the DPS helicopter crew and all rescue personnel.    

SD Sheriff Fire Rescue Helicopter Assists Plane Crash Victim

Cal Fire personnel treating plane crash victim with Sheriff fire helicopter in background, photo by Cal Fire Chief Nick Schuler.A San Diego Sheriff Fire Rescue Helicopter was in the right spot at the right time last Saturday to assist a plane crash victim on the Guejito Ranch located east of Valley Center and north of Ramona Airport. 

Guejito Ranch is a well known area by most pilots in San Diego County due to it's dirt airstrip situated on several thousand acres of grazing land, dotted by oak trees and plenty of wide open semi-flat areas perfectly suitable for emergency landings.  Many pilots may not know that it is the largest of the original Spanish Land Grants still in existence today in Southern California.  The ranch is privately owned.

The uncontrolled airspace above the ranch is for obvious reasons popular among CFI's and students of both fixed wing and rotor wing aircraft. 

At the same time however the manager of the working cattle ranch has understandably had his fill of training helicopters buzzing around the ranch at low level, at times a nuisance to his cattle.  But he has probably also had his fill of both fixed and rotor wing aircraft coming to rest on the ranch in conditions best described as no longer airworthy. 

Let's see there was the Schweitzer 300 N58332 that I did most of my initial flight training in, which ended up in a state of disrepair at the bottom of a simulated auto-rotation "gone bad", on the dirt airstrip. 

Then there was the helicopter from the Ramona Helicopter Museum that went down into the trees with 4 people on board after a loss of engine power.  All four people walked away but the helicopter was totalled. 

Then there was the low wing single engine airplane that apparently suffered engine failure and performed a flawless belly landing literally in the back yard of the ranch managers house. 

And Saturday it was the experimental airplane pictured above.  Thankfully once again the injuries were non fatal.  And that is just in the past 4 years, and I have probably missed one or two.

According to Cal Fire Chief Nick Shuler the plane suffered a loss of engine power and the pilot attempted to make an emergency landing on the ranch.  During the landing roll the plane became inverted causing moderate injuries to the pilot, who was up walking around when fire personnel arrived on scene.

Coincidentally a SD Sheriff's Fire helicopter piloted by Deputy G. Palos, and with a Cal Fire Captain occupying the TFO seat, was in the area, heard the call and landed to assist.  The call apparently came into the Sheriff's communication center at around 11:10 am. 

Due to an extended ETA by Mercy Air, Deputy Palos and his Cal Fire partner flew the victim (along with a ground paramedic) to Scripps Hospital in La Jolla Ca., for treatment.  Normally Sheriff's fire rescue helicopters do not perform medivacs, but they can and will when the ETA for other medivac ships are extended. 

As far as Guejito Ranch is concerned pilots will continue to use the airspace above the ranch for practice, it would be a little silly to think they wouldn't.  But it would be wishful thinking to believe that at some point in time another aircraft will not end up in a non flying state somewhere on the ranch.  Hopefully it will be without injuries:)