Tue, Jun 12, 2012
State Police Aviation Unit Closed, Aircraft Moved to Hazleton, PA
At a hearing before the Pennsylvania Senate Law and Justice Committee and House Subcommittee on Crime and Corrections, a retired state police helicopter pilot called the move of a state police helo away from Williamsport Regional Airport (KIPT) "the worst decision ever made."
Former pilot Dennis Hoak's comments came during a field hearing held at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. The state had until earlier this year operated both rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft from KIPT, according to a report in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. The aircraft flew in non-emergency support of both federal and local law enforcement agencies, as well as SAR, vehicle pursuits, and other missions.
Retired pilot David Frey told the panel that the KIPT unit was among the busiest in the state, and that moving the aircraft to Hazleton, PA (KHZL), which is at 1600 feet MSL, means they will be grounded more often due to low cloud cover. KIPT is closer to 600 feet MSL.
Other law enforcement officials, including Lycoming county Sheriff Mark Lusk, said the aviation unit is "an absolute critical need," and Williamsport Police Chief Greg Foresman called the helo vital to assisting his agency when searching large areas for missing persons or suspects. The need was also echoed by PA State Troopers Association President Joseph Kovel.
Frey said that he and others have never received a response to questions as to why the helicopter was moved. U.S. Congressman Garth Everett (R) said that has been a "frustration throughout the process."
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