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Published: Monday, 9/17/2001 - Updated: 2 years ago

Public to view helicopter for police

Toledo police tomorrow will show the public its new Robinson R44 helicopter for the department's aviation unit that was organized this year.

The chopper, which cost about $504,000, will be used for surveillance, search and rescue, night patrol, to oversee chases, and other emergency situations.

The helicopter arrived in the area on Labor Day after aviation unit commander Lt. Leo Eggert and Officer Jeff Violanti flew it here from the factory in Torrance, Calif. It is being held at an undisclosed location until the unveiling at 9 a.m. at International Park.

The unit, which includes the lieutenant and officers Violanti, Gary Bunting, and Bruce Helppie, will start patrolling with intermittent operations. Flights will increase as they gain experience.

Meanwhile, city council will be discussing whether to buy an insurance policy to cover the helicopter and $1 million for liability, Lieutenant Eggert said.

The policy's $35,350 premium could come from the department's law enforcement trust fund, police Chief Mike Navarre said.

The chief proposed buying a helicopter last year. Money for the chopper came from a federal grant and department funds.

The officers completed about three months of training this year at Quantum Helicopters in Chandler, Ariz.

They primarily trained on the Robinson R22 helicopter, which is smaller than the R44 and, flight instructors said, more difficult to fly.

Two of the officers earned private pilot's licenses to fly rotorcraft helicopters. Officer Bunting had a commercial pilot license to fly airplanes and earned a private pilot rotorcraft helicopter rating.

Lieutenant Eggert was licensed to fly and provide instruction in airplanes prior to his helicopter training. In Arizona, he achieved ratings that allow him to pilot a rotorcraft helicopter and teach students, including his officers.

The officers will not be able to fly the R44 by themselves until they complete 200 flight hours and a final check ride with Lieutenant Eggert. However, they will be patrolling and receive training with Lieutenant Eggert and two Life Flight pilots.

Life Flight, an air ambulance service operated by St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center and Medical College of Ohio Hospitals, will provide free maintenance labor, hangar and office space, and remedial training for the first 18 months the police department has the chopper.

The offer could be extended. Life Flight sent one of its mechanics to a Robinson maintenance program to learn how to service the R44 helicopter because it is different from the Dauphine model Eurocopters the air ambulance service uses, which are faster, twin-engine turbines.

The police helicopter, which has a cruising speed of 130 mph, has three seats.

Police equipment, such as a search light and infrared camera, fill the space where a fourth seat would be located.

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