|By Carmelo Turdo|
The St. Louis County aviation support services were initiated in 1971 using three Bell 47 helicopters. The air operations continued, making their current home at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in 1981. In the mid 1980s, budget cuts reduced the air support unit to two pilots, later including Kurt Frisz, and the MD-500 (Model 369) became the standard aircraft type. In 2003, Frisz became the support unit commander, and he visited the Los Angeles County Police Department to learn from their experience operating a large air support unit. Shortly thereafter, he initiated the planning for a metro St. Louis area air support unit that would later grow to six aircraft. Federal block grants following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks helped in the purchase of additional MD-500 aircraft and systems upgrades including night vision, FLIR and 30 million candlepower search light. Today, the unit trains its own pilots, flies 3,000+ hours per year and has several aircraft flying pro-active patrols within the 1500 square mile area. Each pilot and observer flies at least four hours per day/night shift and are fully qualified law enforcement officers from one of the three sponsoring agencies on a mixed crew basis.
Following a briefing from Kurt Frisz, the aircraft arrived around dusk and the crew were available to visit with the meeting attendees before returning to base. Here are some views from the helicopter arrival, static display and takeoff Thursday evening: