The U.S. Army is looking to get rid of a few good helicopters - and Salt Lake County Sheriff N.D. Hayward is anxious to buy.
Officials from Hayward's office said Monday the Army is selling 180 of its basic training helicopters for only $1,000 apiece. The sheriff is asking county commissioners for permission to buy two - one to fly and the other for spare parts."These particular helicopters are in many ways brand new," said Sheriff's Lt. Ben Anjewierden.
The helicopters are not ideal for police work. They have piston engines, rather than more powerful turbine engines. But the sheriff's office, which patrols widespread areas containing more than 250,000 people, has no aircraft.
Commissioners, however, said they want to know more about the cost of maintaining a helicopter and of the county's liability in case of an accident before approving the request.
But they agree an aircraft is needed. Commissioner Mike Stewart said the request comes at a time when the county is acquiring more recreation land that is difficult to patrol.
"I'm inclined to approve the request," Stewart said.
Hayward, in a letter to commissioners, said the helicopter would be used to patrol the county, reduce the hazards of a high-speed chase, spot marijuana plants and respond quickly to crimes.
The helicopters have only two seats and could be used for little more than observation, Anjewierden said. Upkeep is expected to cost about $60 for every hour the aircraft is flown.
Hayward said he already has two deputies who are pilots trained in the military. Officials from other government entities have said they have a need for a helicopter. Companies charge about $170 per hour to rent aircraft, officails said.
The supply of helicopters, stored at Fort Rucker, Ala., may not last long. The U.S. Air Force is expected to buy 40 of them to use for target practice, Anjewierden said.