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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The HPD’s Expanding Helicopter Fleet

The Houston Police Dept (HPD) needs more aircraft in order to patrol the enormous city (second largest in the U.S.) seven days a week from Hobby Airport. The helicopter unit was founded in 1970, and the current flight patrol fleet of four MD500E helicopters and two Schweizer 333 helicopters will be expanded to 13. When not flying, at least one helicopter and two pilots are always standing by, prepared to lift off in 10 minutes or less. The units fly around Houston and respond to dispatch when called to assist ground units, but it's a huge city that can take even a chopper, racing at more than 120 mph, a half hour to travel from the edge of Clear Lake to Houston. HPD sought Homeland Security grants to buy some of the aircraft. Last summer HPD purchased a $1.2 million MD 500E helicopter with one of the grants, and the unit is applying to purchase eight more during the next eight months, beginning November 2008. The two old or non-functional Schweizer 333 patrol helicopters will be sold. Also, HPD will purchase three Schweizer 300C training helicopters to replace the existing 33-year-old trainers. Two Schweizer units will be delivered July 2008 with the third scheduled for September 2008. All of the patrol helicopters will be equipped with state-of-the-art avionics packages. The total cost of the helicopter and equipment purchases will be approximately $18.3 million.
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