Thursday morning's takeoff marked "a new era in the history of the Harford County Sheriff's Office," Bane said, enhancing the department's ability to protect public safety.
Based at the Forest Hill Business Airpark off Jarrettsville Road, the helicopter—called "Eagle One"—will take off for these types of missions, according to Lt. Lee Dunbar of the aviation unit:
- Searches for missing persons and fugitives
- Foot and vehicle pursuits
- Critical infrastructure, Homeland Security and post-disaster assessments
- Marijuana eradication
- Crime scene photography
- Traffic assessments
- Protests and demonstrations, community/public displays
- Stranded boaters
- Calls to assist other law enforcement agencies
"For several months now, the pilots and tactical flight officers have been actively training with the Baltimore County Police Department’s Aviation Unit," Dunbar said, "where training consisted of ground school, safety techniques, water survival and cockpit egress methods, flying law enforcement missions in a safe and effective manner, crew resource management, onboard aircraft equipment familiarization and utilization, in-flight practical and real life training scenarios."
The ceremonial liftoff of Eagle One at 11:30 a.m. Thursday was for a practice mission, according to Eddie Hopkins of the sheriff's office.
Eagle One is designated by the Federal Aviation Administration for use only by essential personnel, according to Project Manager Captain Duane Williams.
"The helicopter cannot transport persons for hire, or be compensated, or be used to transport people to meetings or events," Williams said. Its use is restricted to missions listed above.
To fulfill its missions, Eagle One has some special equipment.
Under a Department of Defense program, the Bell OH-58 helicopter was awarded an upgraded digital thermal imaging system previously used by the National Guard, providing infrared capability when searching for missing or wanted persons, Williams said. It also has a spotlight, day camera, police radio, high-powered binoculars and deployable life vests with strings, according to the Harford County Sheriff's Office.
Eagle One will fly solely during the day until the pilots become night vision goggle-certified, which Bane said should happen by mid-summer.
Related: Harford County Sheriff's Office Gets New Helicopter at No Cost to County