Aviation News

July 17, 2010

Port Authority Grounds its Police Helicopters

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By: Matt Molnar
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Port Authority Police Department Sikorsky S-76A N116PD

A Port Authority Police Department Sikorsky S-76A (N116PD) rolls along a taxiway at LaGuardia Airport. (Photo by John Musolino)

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates all three of the New York City-area’s major airports, among other major transportation properties, has grounded its fleet of two helicopters.

Eliminating the Port Authority Police Department’s aviation unit will save the agency nearly $4 million annually in labor, fuel and maintenance costs. In addition, selling the fleet’s two Sikorsky helicopters, an S-76C (N115PD) and an S-76A+ (N116PD) is expected to net over $8 million.

During an eight month review period from August 2008 through April 2009, the choppers made 258 flights, 228 of which were security patrols of Port Authority-operated airports, bridges, tunnels, and other properties. Not a single unusual incident was spotted during these patrols, according to a Wall Street Journal report. One flight was made in response to the US Airways 1549 “Miracle on the Hudson” incident, but the New York City Police Department waved off the PAPD’s assistance. Other flights were made to take aerial photos of facilities. The review also discovered that the Port Authority was the only airport operator in the U.S. to use patrol helicopters.

Port Authority officials say the security and emergency response duties can be taken up by other police departments with helicopters, such as the NYPD.