Second Police Helicopter Will Soon Be Flying Over Tulsa

Tuesday, August 24th 2010, 10:38 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, OKLAHOMA -- Mayor Dewey Bartlett announced Tuesday that the Tulsa Police Department will immediately have both helicopters available for service. 

It's not so much part of an improving budget, but because City Hall determined that flying just one cost more than flying two.

Tulsa's Police Helicopter is considered a force multiplier, one of those tools that ‘that's more than worth the cost.  Despite that, both helicopters were grounded last year by Mayor Taylor as the city budget fell flat.

In July, the city determined it had the money to fly one and now the money to fly both.

7/15/2010 Related story: Tulsa Police Helicopter To Return To Tulsa Skies Friday Evening

"And when they're down for maintenance, sometimes they're down three or four days at a time. And when that happens, we're without a helicopter," Chief Chuck Jordan, Tulsa Police Department, said. "Now we have the second one authorized to fly, we can still provide air cover for the city."

It was the city council, Councilor GT Bynum in particular, who argued all along the city had the money to fly.

It turns out, all of the city's estimates of the cost were way off, especially when it came to flying just one instead of two.

"There was a misunderstanding that people assumed when we talked about 2 helicopters that both would be flying at the same time and that was incorrect," Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said.

The Police Department has now determined it will cost $400,000 a year to fly the two helicopters, which is $40,000 a year less than it would cost to fly just one.

The difference is on insurance, which is cheaper for a flying helicopter than one that is grounded, and on maintenance, which is done according to hours of flight.

"The maintenance issue is that if you're putting all the hours on one helicopter, you come to scheduled maintenance quicker and you end up spending more money," Chief Jordan said.

So with the determination that two is cheaper than one, the department will this weekend starting alternately flying both.

The second helicopter is down for maintenance now or otherwise they would be ready to fly.

The money is already in the police department budget, and because of cheaper fuel prices, the mayor believes they'll be able to fly more: 1,200 hours a year. That's 200 more than they fly now.