AStar B3, 3 Bell 206Ls, Cessna 210 and 206 form Miami-Dade Police fleet

Largest local LE agency in southeastern US protects 2.4 million residents-and 10 million visitors a year.


OPF-based Sgt Tom Turpin (L) and TMB-based Sgt Andrew Cohen with Bell 206L4 LongRanger.

The P210 is capable of all-weather missions. Installed avionics includes Bendix/ King nav/comms, a KNS80 integrated navigation system and an S-TEC autopilot. Ericsson police radios are installed for law enforcement communication.

The Cessna 206 is similarly equipped, plus a Garmin GNS430 and gyrostabilized binoculars for surveillance assignments.

Safety and reliability

Aviation Unit maintenance support provides high dispatch reliability and safety for the pilots. John Murman coordinates the activities of the 4 mechanics-3 of whom are IAs-and between them they complete 95% of required maintenance work inhouse.

"We do all the required airframe and powerplant inspections here as well as most major alterations," notes Murman.

"We are constantly challenged to meet the needs of the unit and stay on budget, and we have great techs who realize what we do here helps people." The maintenance department stocks $150,000- 200,000 worth of parts to ensure that all aircraft are available around the clock.

Maintenance is conducted on all 6 aircraft under Part 91-however, the more stringent standards of Part 135 are used as the benchmark. According to Ramirez, "Murman and his team are a major reason the unit runs so well."

On the horizon

Miami-Dade County continues to call on the Aviation Unit to handle additional tasks and provide diversified services to the community. Responding to those needs means continually expanding the capability of the unit, as well as raising awareness of the unit's potential within the department and the county.

Ramirez's vision for the program is that the Aviation Unit will continue to be "more proactive than reactive" to those identified needs. "We're applying the new technology much more," adds Cohen.

"There is a definite shift in attitude within the department [toward] what we are now capable of." Acquisition of the new AStars is a good example of this. They will allow the unit to provide more diversified services to the agency and support a greater number of specialized police activities, including support of Miami-Dade's SRT ops.

As one of only a handful of full-time SRTs in the country, the MDPD team requires air support routinely. The limitations of the LongRangers required MDPD SRT to look to other agencies for lift when required-often that support came from US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) Air Branch in Miami.

MDPD's AStars will fill that role increasingly as they come on strength and become operational. Adding the AStars will also require the Aviation Unit to expand personnel significantly, adding tactical flight officers (TFOs) to the team and-when the AStars are fully operational-changing to full-time 2-man crews.

Turpin agrees with Cundle when he says, "To get maximum benefit from the capability of the equipment on the AStars, you have to have 2 people in the aircraft." MDPD is in the beginning stages of building a TFO program that will grow to 10 positions by the time the 4th AStar comes online in the fall of 2011.

Aviation Unit maintenance staff (L-R) Aircraft Technician Supervisor John Murman with Aircraft Technicians Pablo Quiles, Pedro Jimenez and Keith Mohan.

The TFOs will be selected in much the same manner as pilot candidates. Cundle sees the program as the initial entry point for personnel to the Aviation Unit. "Many of the officers who have expressed interest in the TFO assignment are already pilots," he notes.

The TFOs will be trained to operate the electronics aboard the AStars and interface with ground units to support their work. With the addition of TFOs, there will be more focus on CRM training for all crewmembers.

The Aviation Unit is also at the forefront of applications of new aviation technology to local law enforcement missions. FAA has awarded MDPD a certificate of authorization to operate a micro-air vehicle (MAV) to support police operations, and the department is working with Honeywell to acquire 2 MAVs for the joint FAA/MDPD test program.

"This is an experimental project to test the feasibility of the MAV and determine the training required," says Ramirez. MDPD sees the most potential for the MAV in work with the SRT in building searches, rooftop surveillance and other limited area operations.

The MAV will be operated by Aviation Unit pilots who will control the craft remotely and manage the camera systems.

Illuminating the subject

MDPD Aviation Unit management and staff are committed to expanding service to the agency and the community at large with superior resources and advanced technology.

To do that they are always seeking better ways to illuminate the air unit in the eyes of the county government and MDPD Command staff.

After a 2-hour patrol which ended past midnight at the police hangar at OPF, Officer/Pilot Wessel sums it up succinctly: "90% of the battle is being there-looking, listening and keeping the guys on the ground safe.

The helicopter in the air prevents crime. Period." Brent Holman has held a variety of flight training and operations management positions at a major US air carrier for the past 24 years, in addition to flying the line. He has also been involved in law enforcement aviation as a reserve officer/helicopter pilot for over two decades.

Brent Holman has held a variety of flight training and operations management positions at a major US air carrier for the past 24 years, in addition to flying the line. He has also been involved in law enforcement aviation as a reserve officer/helicopter pilot for over two decades.


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