EAA chapter 791 today held its monthly meeting at the Pasco County (Florida) Sheriff’s helicopter hangar. We had a wonderful two hour session touring the hangar and the adjoining parking yard for the emergency response (SWAT and other) vehicles.
The Department has four operational jet ranger helicopters on a staggered 100/200/300 hour maintenance schedule, plus two other JRs that are scavenged for parts. They have one civilian mechanic who handles everything other than instrument repairs.
All of the helicopters were military surplus and have been rebuilt, renovated, reconditioned and painted by the County. Several were previously used by the Columbian military.
The chairs were full during the Chapter meeting and a follow on presentation by one of the officer/pilots.
We heard a story about the time this officer while on a SWAT team support flight was repeatedly hit by a red laser beam – ground patrols were all tied – he set the helicopter down in a parking lot – ran five blocks and caught the perp. He could identify the person as the helicopters have FLIR (infrared cameras) and the pilots wear night vision goggles.
Then we watched a video (Click to see it on YouTube) that shows the performance of the FLIR camera. It is so sensitive that if a person spends time standing next to a wall and then moves on, the camera can read the heat that was transfered from the person to the wall. Similarly, automobile exhausts leave a heated trail on the ground showing their direction of travel, even on hot nights.
Finally, we toured the emergency response vehicle parking yard. The vehicle electrical systems are plugged in all the time. The department also has a large command system truck that keeps its air conditioner running while stored here awaiting a call.
I was Impressed that several of the vehicles and a canine training building were donated to the Department by an individual citizen and a community leadership association. Others were acquired from the military at nominal cost.