JACKSON, Miss.- The Mississippi Highway Patrol has a new helicopter to help with Amber and Silver Alerts along with finding criminals on the loose or to help with search and rescue operations after natural disasters.
The MHP took delivery of a new Airbus AS350B3e helicopter at no additional cost to taxpayers Tuesday. MHP’s air wing has become a vital part of the operation of the agency. Helicopters have proven their value in the search for missing persons, important law enforcement tools when criminals are on the loose, in search and rescue operations after natural disasters and identifying illegal drug crops in Mississippi.
“The Mississippi Highway Patrol’s Air Wing serves vital public safety functions in our state. From responding during natural disasters to assisting in manhunts and searches for missing children, having the capacity to conduct aerial operations is essential,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “This state-of-the-art helicopter produced by Mississippians will go a long way in meeting the needs of the public on many fronts. Airbus is a valued partner to Mississippi and we appreciate being able to work with them on the manufacturing and delivery of this helicopter.”
The Highway Patrol needed to update its aircraft and began to look for cost effective ways to purchase a new one.
“The air fleet was aging and we knew we had to creatively come up with a way to purchase such a large-ticket item,” Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz said. “We decided to sell three aircraft to pay for the new helicopter and we avoided spending additional taxpayer money in doing so.”
The helicopter cost $3.3 million. The agency’s Vietnam-era UH-1H helicopter, a 2000 model Lone Ranger helicopter and a 2006 model King Air B-200 were sold to off-set the expense.
“We considered price first and the Airbus was the least expensive,” MHP Air Wing Commander Captain Ron Kelley said. “Just as important we considered the functionality of the aircraft. The Airbus’s cockpit design is better for our mission-specific operation. We also considered performance and payload capability and this model beat the competition.”