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Police Choppers Drop In for a Party

October 01, 1998|LESLEY WRIGHT

More than 20 helicopters from as far away as Sacramento dropped in on the city beach Wednesday to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Police Department's Aero unit.

About 300 people also kicked off the Western Regional Safety seminar of the Airborne Law Enforcement Assn., which coincidentally is meeting in the city this year.

"It was a real nice celebration," said Lt. Jon Arnold. "Huntington Beach had the first aviation unit in Orange County and the fifth in the nation. We've been pretty much on the cutting edge of it."

The unit began in 1968 with two Hughes helicopters. Since then, it has logged 79,000 hours of flight time and helped capture about 12,000 suspects.

Police now fly two McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) 520N Notar helicopters--which have reduced noise because they lack tail rotors--and one 500E, Arnold said.

The machines have "night sun" spotlights that can illuminate an area the size of a football field and a forward-looking, infrared feature that lets pilots see in the dark.

But the party Wednesday was as much a reunion as anything. Dignitaries, chiefs of police and retirees who had flown in the 1960s were able to trade stories.

The conference will concentrate on safety and rescue techniques for pilots and runs through Friday.

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