BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — The Bay County Sheriff’s Office has been granted $2.5 million from the Florida legislature to go toward a new helicopter.
The helicopter the department has its eyes on is a 2007 Bell 407 four-rotor helicopter that will bring more power, more maneuverability, and more capacity to the department’s aviation program.
“Very excited about it,” Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said. “I think it will increase safety and our ability to fly certain types of missions and we actually have been looking at another sheriff’s office in a larger county that has been looking to trade in their helicopter.”
Ford said an advantage of acquiring this particular helicopter is it is already equipped for law enforcement use.
The sheriff’s office aviation program has existed since the 1990s and currently uses two military surplus helicopters from 1969 and 1970.
“Our air unit is such a benefit to the citizens of this area when we are looking at search and rescue missions or out flying missions on the beach or manhunts, looking for wanted persons,” Ford said.
The upgrade will also help the local fire departments.
“This new helicopter actually has the capability to do some light firefighting work with the Bambi bucket, a water bucket that we can dip into a pond or a water source and assist the fire department with woods fires,” Ford said.
He added that the department plans to keep one of the older choppers to avoid excessive hours on the new one.