This Florida Sheriff’s Department Splurged on a $5.2 Million Helicopter

Admin Emergency Services, Helicopter Search and Rescue, Helicopter Services

In Martin County, Florida, the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t mess around when it comes to high-tech toys for its work. County Sheriff William Snyder proudly presented his department’s brand new $5.2 million helicopter this last Tuesday and justified it as a show of his agency’s efforts to keep Martin County safe.

The shining new Airbus H125 machine landed right near the Martin County Jail before an admiring crowd. It’s now officially the latest addition to a police department that has so far relied on military surplus helicopters from the Vietnam era for its air operations before this.

According to the sheriff, “This is a huge day for Martin County and a big day for public safety. We have come to depend on our helicopters for being the backbone, the cornerstone of all our patrol techniques”.

According to Snyder, the new chopper comes heavily equipped for truly cutting edge operations and contains “state of the art crimefighting technology”. Among the gadgets onboard are “half a million dollars worth of camera equipment alone” according to the pleased sheriff.

The H125 also offers a hoist for emergency rescue and medevac operations or for dropping deputies into areas that are otherwise difficult to access on foot or by car.

The starting price of the Airbus H125 helicopter was $3.2 million but in this particular case, the police and rescue-capable outfitting is what bumped the cost up to $5.2 million.

Sheriff Snyder himself acknowledged that this has been the single largest dollar amount paid for any one piece of equipment during his tenure. He claims that the helicopter is being paid for in installments under a lease agreement, instead of through externally provided grants.

The Bell OH-58 military surplus helicopters that the Sheriff’s Department is currently using were something that the Sheriff wanted to slowly get rid of. For this reason, his department analyzed its finances three years ago and began planning for this particular high-caliber purchase.

According to Sheriff Snyder, the old Bell helicopters were losing their viability since the only source for their aging parts was the military, and it was planning on phasing out its parts program for that model.

Military brass then offered to sell the Sheriff’s department a more modern Blackhawk helicopter instead, but according to Snyder, this was a bit too much in terms of both price and size, “You think I get in trouble for this thing [the new Airbus H125]? Can you imagine me unleashing Blackhawks in Marin County?”

Following this new purchase, the Sheriff’s Department will downsize away one of its three old military helicopters. While the remaining birds remain usable, they’re also eventually going to be phased out.

Search and rescue helicopters and police choppers are both often sold to Sheriff’s departments, police agencies, and other government emergency services from military surplus stock. However, corporate manufacturers sometimes directly sell to these agencies as well. In other cases, regional emergency services hire modern helicopters and professional crew from private air charter companies, such as Flex Air Aviation.

Photo Credit: Will Greenlee, Treasure Coast Newspapers