COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A state budgetary panel on Monday approved the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s request to buy a new, $4.1 million helicopter after the agency cited increasing demand and maintenance on the two helicopters that it operates.
The state’s Controlling Board agreed to the patrol’s request to waive competitive selection in the purchase of a 2014 AS350 helicopter from Airbus Helicopters Inc. The patrol already operates 1994 and 1998 models of the same helicopter.
Patrol spokesman Lt. Craig Cvetan told the Associated Press that the aircraft are a vital resource to ensuring public safety. He said they perform an array of missions for the patrol and other local, state and federal agencies. The helicopters have helped in searches for lost people, assisted in the capture of fugitives and transported time-sensitive materials such as water to be tested from Lake Erie.
The aircraft are equipped with an infrared camera, digital video recorder, moving map system, high-powered search light and other safety equipment. The two can be anywhere in the state from their hanger in Columbus in about an hour, Cvetan said.
The patrol said in its request to the budgetary panel that keeping both helicopters in a constant state of readiness is not always possible, because of the scheduled and unscheduled maintenance required to keep the aircraft flying safely and meet federal requirements.
Cvetan said there have been times when the two helicopters have been down for maintenance when there were calls for service, but he could not provide specific details.
The patrol has flown close to 130 missions this year and more than 500 last year. Most missions in the past 12 months have been in support of other agencies, Cvetan said.
“Division aircraft are becoming more and more relied upon by other public safety agencies to assist them with their responsibilities,” the patrol said in its request.
The state recently spent $9.6 million on two new aircraft for the governor and other state leaders to use for travel around Ohio on official business.
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