OKLAHOMA CITY - There are new eyes in the Oklahoma City skies.
"We're going out on our first patrol mission," MSgt. James Ray said. “We're actually putting these things into full service today."
The Oklahoma City Police Department bought two new Airbus B3 helicopters at $3.3 million dollars a piece.
They can fly higher, faster and longer, which are important features when looking for a missing person or a fugitive.
"The time we can stay aloft without having to refuel and shift, it affords us the opportunity to cover a lot more area," Ray said.
The design for these choppers has been in the works for years.
Officers have chosen everything from the paint job to the glass door.
The new helicopters also come equipped with a comfort most of us take for granted.
"We actually have air conditioning now which helps with fatigue on those longer missions, on those searches. It definitely helps with fatigue in the summer time," Ray said.
Ray said the automated technology works kind of like a co-pilot.
It will let the police officer know if there might be a mechanical issue including oil pressure drops and engine errors.
"It captures your attention when something's close to being out of range. So I can devote my time and attention more outside of the aircraft,” Ray said. "Pilots have a tremendous amount at their fingertips that in the past we didn't have access to, which helps on the safety side. The more information you have, the safer we can fly."
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Tulsa Police Department will also start flying new helicopters this week.
KFOR's Bob Moore Chopper 4 Pilot Jon Welsh explained why the Oklahoma City Police Department will benefit from the upgrades.
"The major differences between the MD500E and the Airbus AS350B3e is size, speed and availability of options that can be added to the helicopter. For example the size of their MD500 is about 31 feet in length and the rotor diameter is 26’4”. The AS350B3e on the other hand is almost 36 feet long and a rotor diameter of 35’1”. You could fit a couple people in the back of the 500 but its cramped quarters where three in the back of the AS350B3e is not a big deal. Speed and air time are also a big difference. OCPD is trading up big in this aspect since the AS350B3e at its max endurance airspeed you can stay in the air over 4 hrs., compared to around 2 hours and 45 min in the 500. The availability to put options on the aircraft and not have to worry about not having enough power is pretty cool. For instance the B3 has air-conditioning (the 500 didn’t) which makes for a more comfortable and after a long day a safer environment to operate in. Now with options like a hoist, night sun spot light and FLIR camera, the missions that can be conducted increase exponentially. I’m glad to see that OCPD went with the B3 over the B2 like Tulsa PD did because it gives them more options down the road," he said.