County Sheriff’s Department To Add Two Military Surplus Aircraft To Aviation Fleet

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is adding two aircraft to its aviation division.
The state and federal government are making, through the California Emergency Management Agency Excess Property Program, a Bell UH-1H Huey helicopter and a Beechcraft C-12 King Air fixed-wing aircraft available to the county for the taking. The board of supervisors on Tuesday voted to accept both.
According to sheriff’s captain Robert O’Brine, “Both aircraft are airworthy, meaning they are able and safe to fly. The UH-1H Huey helicopter (Serial No. 68-16568) would be used to enhance the department’s rescue, medical transport, firefighting, and other public safety efforts throughout the county. The King Air fixed-wing aircraft (Serial No. N121CA/BD-09) would be used for staff and prisoner transportation.”
O’Brine said that the county in 2009 applied to participate in the California Emergency Management Agency 1033 Excess Property Program, which empowers the Secretary of Defense under Section 1033 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1996 to transfer excess Department of Defense property to local law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes. That same year the sheriff’s department submitted an application to obtain up to five flyable UH-1H helicopters through the 1033 Program upon their availability. In March and August of 2014, the county accepted two UH-1H Huey helicopters, and an additional UH-1H Helicopter and one fixed-wing King Air airplane respectively, through the 1033 Program. The sheriff’s department placed two of the helicopters into service and one which is non-flyable is used for spare parts. The department currently utilizes both of these helicopters for rescue, medical transport, firefighting, drug interdiction, rapid response for the department’s Special Weapons Assault Team, evacuations and mass causality incidents.
In December 2017, the sheriff’s department was advised that the California Department of Justice was going to release a UH-1H Huey helicopter and a King Air fixed-wing aircraft back to the U.S. Department of Defense. Both aircraft were airworthy and could have been immediately utilized by the sheriff’s department.
“The county was the first agency considered to receive these aircraft, and official notification of the award was received on February 14, 2018,” O’Brine said. “The aircraft will be flown by existing pilots and no additional staffing is required. The sheriff’s department currently utilizes the military surplus King Air aircraft, accepted by the board of supervisors on August 5, 2014, to transport essential personnel, prisoner transports and for other public safety missions. Due to the size of San Bernardino County, the use of a fixed-wing aircraft is important and saves valuable time during emergency operations or incidents. This aircraft will require engine replacement(s) or overhaul(s) in the next two years at an estimated cost of $750,000 to $1,000,000.” Accordingly, O’Brine said, the department was recommending that the county “accept a King Air aircraft from the Department of Justice, which is in excellent condition and the engines will not need to be replaced for about eight years. Receiving these Department of Justice surplus aircraft will ensure that the sheriff’s department has flyable aircraft and will save approximately $1,000,000 in replacement or overhaul costs, as the military surplus King Air aircraft will be returned to the Department of Defense in approximately two years.”
The sheriff’s department has 13 helicopter pilots and five fixed wing aircraft pilots, and has four volunteers who fly the department’s aircraft. The department currently has six Airbus ASTAR 350/B3 patrol helicopters; three Huey UH-1 helicopters; one Bell 212 helicopter; one Bell 500 helicopter; two King Air fixed wing aircraft; one Commander fixed wing aircraft; and one Cessna Airvan.
The Airbus B3 helicopters are used primarily for patrolling the 20,105 square miles of San Bernardino County and sometimes the outlying areas of Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles and Riverside counties, as well as areas in bordering Nevada and Arizona. They can also be used as rapid response aircraft to wildland fires and search and rescue calls. The Huey UH-1 and Bell 212 helicopters are primarily used as rescue helicopters at higher elevations. Within its confines, San Bernardino County has 10,064-altitude Mt. Baldy, 11,503 foot elevation Mt. San Gorgonio, 10,680-altitude Shields Peak, 11,205 foot Jepson Peak, 10,649 foot high San Bernardino Peak, 8,696 foot altitude Ontario Peak and 8,862 foot high Cucamonga Peak. As the air gets thinner at higher altitudes, the need for a stronger helicopter exists.
If it were a national military force, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, with its fifteen aircraft, would be tied with the Republic of the Congo and Mozmbique as the 120th and 121st largest air fleets in the world. It would be larger than Mali, the 122nd largest military air fleet with 14 craft, Lithuania, the 123rd largest with 10 craft, Mongolia, the 124th largest with nine aircraft, South Sudan, the 125th largest with nine aircraft, Kyrgystan, the 126th largest with six aircraft, Estonia, the 127th largest with six aircraft, Ivory Coast, the 128th largest with five aircraft, Sierra Leone, the 129th largest with five aircraft, Latvia, the 130th largest with four aircraft, Bhutan, the 131st largest with four aircraft, Central African Republic, the 132nd largest, with four aircraft; and Suriname, the 133rd largest, with three aircraft.
Mark Gutglueck

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