Huntington Beach Police Department Receives 3 New Helicopters to Replace Aging Fleet – Orange County Register

Three state-of-the-art helicopters are expected to arrive at the Huntington Beach Police Department in early November, augmenting their fleet.

The new MD 530FF will replace around 25-year-old helicopters from the same manufacturer.

Almost every part on these helicopters has been replaced over the years, Lt. Thoby Archer of the department’s Air Support Bureau, which also serves Costa Mesa, Irvine and Newport Beach.

But these parts were simply replacements for Vietnam War technology – no upgrades, Sgt. Jeff Goodspeed added.

“Imagine transitioning from an old gas-powered truck to a brand new, state-of-the-art piece of technology,” said Goodspeed, one of seven pilots at Surf City’s Air Support Bureau.

In fact, choosing this model was similar to buying a car: the pilots “tried” different models from different manufacturers before deciding on the MD 530FF.

In addition to improved infrared capabilities and other technological improvements, a key difference from the new helicopters is a tail rotor, allowing for a larger engine, fewer heat-related issues, more maneuverability, and a lower weight limit.

The three helicopters cost about $10 million in total, but the city was able to shave about $3 million off that bill by letting manufacturer MD Helicopters sell the two remaining planes and own associated parts.

They will replace a helicopter sold to an Australian company, another in which an officer crashed killing an officer and injuring the co-pilot, and the third still in service. The city agreed to purchase the new helicopters in June 2021, well ahead of February’s fatal clash, the cause of which investigators have not yet released.

Although drones are also used, nothing compares to the human eye and a helicopter’s ability to follow suspects during a pursuit or give ground officers a bird’s-eye view, Archer said.

“It allows the officers in their squad cars to stand back a bit, but we can keep an eye on them (the suspects),” Goodspeed explained. “Sometimes this will result in the suspect slowing down or backing up when they think the police are no longer following them. It’s safer for everyone.”

On February 19, one of the department’s helicopters crashed in the shallow Newport Canal just off the Lido Peninsula in Newport Beach while assisting that city’s Police Department. The crash killed one officer, Nicholas Vella, and injured his co-pilot.

A preliminary investigation found that officers had reported a mechanical failure in a radio transmission. The accident is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, said spokesman Peter C. Knudson. A full report is not expected before next year.

The department’s fleet was temporarily grounded, but no significant mechanical problems were identified.

When the new helicopters arrive, they will not be put into service immediately. Pilots will spend a week training with an expert from the manufacturer, including lessons to familiarize themselves with the new system and prepare for emergency situations, Goodspeed said. Huntington Beach Police Department Receives 3 New Helicopters to Replace Aging Fleet – Orange County Register

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