APD requests multi-million-dollar helicopter to aid in public safety missions


Marisa Vasquez

Sergeant Ben Dranguet and Senior Police Officer Steve Linsday are members of APD’s Air Support Unit. APD requested a new helicopter to expand the unit’s operations and aid in public safety missions.

Joan Vinson

Austin Police Department has requested a brand new helicopter to help fight crime and lend a hand to Austin Fire Department.

APD officials asked City Council for a new helicopter June 21 to use in land pursuits and to provide the fire department with aid for water drops. If the request is granted, the $3.7 million-plus Eurocopter will be the third helicopter owned by APD, accompanied by a model from 2001 and a military helicopter from 1969.

The police department asked Austin City Council to write a letter of intent to reserve a spot in the production line, and if approved, the helicopter would arrive about a year after the request is made.

David Carter, chief of staff of APD, said the city of Austin would be better off with this style of helicopter, because it has the ability to help serve a number of different purposes.

“I think the city of Austin needs this different style of helicopter,” Carter said. “It will address the wild land fire issues, such as the Bastrop fires. It will help the police with managing pursuits and just day-to-day police investigations.”

Except for the STAR Flight medical helicopters, which help with highly specialized emergency response services, Austin has no immediate state or federal resources to respond to wildfires and flash floods, Carter said.

“This helicopter will have an overall public safety mission. One message I really want to stress is that this helicopter is different than any other aircraft we have,” Carter said.

A recent government graduate, Alexa Caldwell, has mixed feelings on the request for this state-of-the-art helicopter.

“I support Austin buying this helicopter because it is necessary for emergency response situations,” Caldwell said. “But it seems like, with all of the other budget cuts, a lot of money to spend on the police force.”

Harry Evans, chief of staff of the Austin Fire Department, said the helicopter will allow them to partner with the police force to protect citizens in public safety missions.

“Buying this helicopter is a win-win situation. It will belong to the police department but will have the mission capability for doing water drops,” Evans said.