August 29, 2015

SLED seeks new helicopters, saying current vehicles date back to late 1980s

2-passenger SLED helicopter at agency's headquarters (Image: USC-Lancaster)

2-passenger SLED helicopter at agency’s headquarters (Image: USC-Lancaster)

State police are seeking permission to purchase a new helicopter, saying their current models that are all more than 25 years old and are showing their age.

The Joint Bond Review Committee on Monday advanced the State Law Enforcement Division’s request to spend up to $3.5 million on a new 2-passenger copter. The matter will now go to the full Budget & Control Board later this month.

In a letter to the committee, SLED said it currently owns four helicopters: one 10-passenger “rescue”/transport helicopter from the late 1960s, two 2-passenger helicopters built in the 1980s which are experiencing considerable downtime for repairs, and one 2-passenger helicopter used in the Vietnam War, which is no longer in service due to the lack of available parts.

The federal government donated the Vietnam-era helicopter to SLED along with 10 replacement engines which had a service life of 1,000 flying hours each. The letter said all of the engines have been used with less than a couple hundred flying hours left on the last engine. SLED is required to return the helicopter to the U.S. Dept. of Defense or another governmental entity under the program.

SLED Chief Mark Keel was at Monday’s meeting, but said he did not wish to comment until after the Budget & Control Board makes its decision.

SLED’s letter said it is “challenged” to maintain its current level of support with this helicopter out of service.

The General Assembly increased SLED’s 2014-15 Other Funds authorization by $3.5 million for the purchase of a new helicopter. The source of the funds are $1.2 million in confiscated cash and $2.3 million from criminal record search funds carried over from previous year operations.

SLED said it hopes to purchase a new MD Model 500E helicopter– the same model as the pair of 2-passenger helicopters in the current fleet.

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