The Houston Police Department has an aging fleet of aircraft and a dwindling team of pilots, says the Houston Chronicle. Six of the eight helicopters are more than 30 years old, and many veteran pilots have retired or plan to leave. The two dozen officers who fly police choppers, known as “fox” units, look to preventative maintenance and creative flight schedules to keep a chopper in the air 15 to 20 hours daily. “Our drawback is that we need more (aircraft),” said 30-year officer Roberto Saenz. “The city’s expanding leaps and bounds, and we have 750 miles of responsibility.”
Houston, like many cities, has sought Homeland Security grants to buy aircraft. Last summer it purchased a $1.2 million helicopter with one grant, and the unit is applying for others. In a huge city, it can take a chopper, racing at more than 120 mph, a half hour to travel from one destination to another. “We’re making do with limited resources,” said Dan Schwarzbach, president of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association, whose members include police pilots from Houston, New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Cleveland.