Huntington Beach police buy new helicopters after crash
Huntington Beach Police have replaced their aging air fleet with brand new helicopters that will begin arriving in November, less than a year after a department plane crashed in Newport Beach, killing an officer and seriously injuring him. another.
The three MD-530F helicopters cost a total of $7.3 million. They will replace the three older models of planes made by the same manufacturer that the department purchased about 20 years ago, Huntington Beach Police Lt. Thoby Archer said.
The new helicopters have more powerful engines than those currently in the HBPD fleet. That means they can carry more people and heavier payloads, Archer said.
“The planes we used before were by no means underpowered,” Archer said. “But the 530 should be able to take more people on a search and rescue operation, or carry a crew of four and something like a full bucket of water if we wanted to use it to help with extinction. fires.”
The department’s fleet consisted of three MD-500 helicopters, one of which was still in service as of last week. Another was sold to a buyer in Australia earlier this year, Archer said.
The third sank into the waters along Newport Beach on February 19.
Officer Nicholas Vella, one of the helicopter’s two crew members, died in the crash. The other suffered traumatic injuries but has since returned to duty, Archer said.
“Nicholas was a friend to all of us,” Archer said. “It was hard on everyone, but it wasn’t like people were going to stop calling 911; everyone just had to work on it.
The helicopter that crashed had just returned from routine maintenance about a week before the crash, Archer said. The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet specified the exact cause of the accident.
In the weeks following Vella’s death, the HBPD Air Support Office underwent an extensive review of its procedures, Archer said. However, they found no “glaring issues” in training or policy that might have played a role in the accident, the lieutenant said.
“Flying over water is tough,” Archer said. “Flying at night is difficult. I don’t want to speak out of turn, but it may have been a perfect storm of factors that night.
Despite the crash, members of the Air Support Office have “complete faith and confidence” in their engineers and equipment, Archer said. He added that members of the office are still dealing with the loss of Officer Vella in the midst of their duties.
The crash that killed Vella was the second time in years that an HBPD plane had come down unexpectedly. A helicopter from another service experienced a mechanical problem and was seen spinning and tilting in the air before making a hard landing at John Wayne Airport in April 2019. This incident was related to a worn part that since been repaired, and no injuries were reported at the time.
The purchase of the new helicopters was approved by City Council in June as part of the 2021-22 budget. They were supposed to have arrived in April, but delivery was delayed, Archer said.