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Matt Molnar
10-03-2005, 07:45 PM
Eagle eyes over city

High-tech copters have talons to fight terrorists

By PATRICE O'SHAUGHNESSY
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Detective David Zschau, copter crew chief, studies monitors aboard Bell 412 helicopter. Besides video, he has SkyPod V microwave data link, integrated GPS moving map system and "night sun" lamp. The helicopter's communications pods bulge, giving it its extraordinary aerial view of city and region.

The Bell 412 helicopter climbs into the cloudless sky over sparkling Jamaica Bay and makes its way across Brooklyn, where train yards full of subway cars and the amusement rides in Coney Island look like toys.

Crew chief Detective David Zschau studies a monitor in front of him, a video showing the Verrazano Bridge, which is a mile away and almost a quarter-mile below him.

He uses a hand-held instrument to train the copter's video camera on one vehicle on the bridge. You could see not only the U-Haul lettering on the truck, but the man who is driving it clearly: his brown hair, white T-shirt and his two hands grip the steering wheel.

It's the NYPD's latest high-tech defense against terrorists, a spy copter that goes as high as 3,000 feet for stealth surveillance of the city's bridges, infrastructure and waterways.

If New York were under attack, NYPD copters with an overt, lethal mission would cut across the sky: Agusta 119s armed with .50-caliber semiautomatic rifles capable of blasting large moving objects like boats, planes or tractor-trailers from a distance. Three other Bell copters streaking at 144 mph would drop rescue or assault teams onto rooftops or boats.

But this day Zschau and the pilots, Police Officer Jon Goldin and Detective Anthony Cassillo, were on routine patrol in the specially equipped Bell, zooming around and checking things out with cops' eyes.

The NYPD has been revamping the aviation fleet as part of counterterrorism efforts, and it is taking on more and more of a military bent.

"The whole fleet is changing," said Assistant Chief Charles Kammerdener of the special operations division. "We had Jet Rangers and Long Rangers [helicopters], with no GPS [Global Positioning System] or cameras, just Hagstrom maps."

Now, the aviation unit has the special-mission Bell 412 aircraft with an imaging system, a digital SkyPod V microwave data link and an integrated moving map and a "night sun" light. It also has the AgustaWestland A119 Koala helicopter equipped with SkyPod V and integrated moving map.

The equipment is all part of SOD's evolution since 9/11.

Based on the day's reports from the intelligence bureau, the harbor, aviation and emergency service units get specific locations to visit.

"We look at hard and soft targets," said Kammerdener.

Hercules units - the heavily armed cops who the public sees on Wall Street, at Rockefeller Center and other high-profile locations - roam the city, while ESU cops also visit 70 subway stops a day, giving heightened attention since the London Underground bombings in July.

Police scuba divers search under bridges and at the pier beside the United Nations building. Combing the cloudy waters is dangerous, tedious work, taking up to two hours per dive. Harbor cops escort propane and gasoline tankers past tunnel air vents and Con Edison plants.

And aviation cops watch bridges, train yards and heliports during 20 flights a day.

The unit has four Bearcat - ballistic emergency armored rescue counter assault team - vehicles and some cops are training to qualify with new Barrett .50-caliber guns, anti-materiel weapons with bullets that rip through concrete and steel from a mile away. They would be mounted on the Agustas if the need arose.

The Bell 412 normally flies at 3,000 feet and is unmarked so it is not recognized from the ground. On a recent day, Zschau, Cassillo and Goldin patrolled in it at under 2,000 feet, visible from the ground as they hovered high over the roof of the UN building just before the General Assembly meeting.

"There are cops with big guns down there," said Cassillo.

At 1,260 feet above the rear entrance of UN, they could see a guard in his booth.

Zschau sat behind the pilots looking at a panel of three screens. One was the video camera. Another lit up with a GPS map of the block when he typed in a random address on Broadway. The other screen allowed him to see and follow the course of a vehicle that had a tracking device on it.

They flew down the East River, and a mile south of the Con Edison plant the camera focused on workers getting into trucks at the gate.

As Goldin hovered the craft far above the towers of the Verrazano, Zschau could zoom in on the stanchions of the bridge.

From nearly 1,000 feet above a Staten Island ferry, you could see a newspaper in a woman's hand. The copter also looked down on a propane tanker, seeing the deck was clear.

Goldin maneuvered the aircraft past lower Manhattan and up the Hudson, and the cops checked the ventilation stacks of the Holland Tunnel, and the deck of the Intrepid, where Zschau zoomed in on a wastebasket, making it seem 3 feet away, not 937.

They also check the refineries in Staten Island and New Jersey. At one point, Zschau focused on the George Washington Bridge, 6.2 miles away, and switched to the infrared camera. The engines of a Wal-mart truck, a school bus and all the vehicles traveling the span glowed white on the dark screen.

Although obtained to prevent or fight sophisticated terrorist attacks, the new aviation equipment has paid other dividends.

Cops are doing high-rise rescue training with 200 firefighters, Kammerdener said. "ESU will rappel to the roof, remove obstacles and we'll insert firefighters with gear onto the roof."

Already, police pilots have taken FDNY battalion chiefs up in the helicopters to direct firefighting at upper-floor blazes, most recently a fire in the Bronx on Sept. 18.

"It's about saving a life," said Kammerdener.


Originally published on October 2, 2005

Tower Air
10-03-2005, 07:50 PM
Are there pictures of it?

PhilDernerJr
10-03-2005, 08:00 PM
Are there pictures of it?

Here are two recent ones:

http://www.airliners.net/open.file/933144/L/

http://www.airliners.net/open.file/933360/L/

cancidas
10-04-2005, 12:14 AM
phil, those two pictures are not the helos that the article is talking about. frankly, it's better that they remain hidden tot he public eye. i've seen them while visiting floyd bennett a few weeks ago, they operate only out of that airport and rarely make fuel stops anywhere but there.

PhilDernerJr
10-04-2005, 04:47 AM
The article mentions AgustaWestland A119 Koala's, which is what those pictures are. Those in the shot most certainly ARE the ones they are talking about.

Derf
10-04-2005, 06:38 AM
....................Those in the shot most certainly ARE the ones they are talking about.


I do not think these are them....unmarked, HEY.... are they talking about the black helicopters with NO N-numbers that keep circling my house????
:wink:





Eagle eyes over city

High-tech copters have talons to fight terrorists

By PATRICE O'SHAUGHNESSY
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

................................The Bell 412 normally flies at 3,000 feet and is unmarked so it is not recognized from the ground............

K9DEP
10-04-2005, 07:59 AM
My Mom Knew the pilot of that Agusta at Kids Day b/c He is one of the patients at the Dentists office where she works. But the heli didnn't look that advanced, that it would have "talons . ." and all that stuff

jakbar
10-04-2005, 09:27 AM
phil, those two pictures are not the helos that the article is talking about

Read the article closely and you will see that while the Agusta is not the main subject of the article (rather, the unmarked Bell 412s are the subject), it is mentioned in there.

moose135
10-04-2005, 09:56 AM
i've seen them while visiting floyd bennett a few weeks ago, they operate only out of that airport and rarely make fuel stops anywhere but there.

Is that the white Bell 412 you mentioned parked at the 34th St heliport in your "Spotter Blotter" write-up near the UN last month? No wonder you got stopped!

Matt Molnar
10-04-2005, 10:15 AM
I think all the Agusta's ARE marked and are equipped with some of the stuff, while the Bell is the unmarked full-fledged spycopter. The Agustas are built for rescue and police applications, the Bell is probably better suited for high altitude hovering and surveillance. I'm pretty sure I saw it last week hovering about 3,000ft over lower midtown, it was a dark color and hung out in one spot for about 5 minutes before leaving. Could have been the flight the reporter was on.