As a few helicopter pilots sauntered into a hangar Thursday in Oklahoma City to grab some breakfast snacks, two other pilots hustled back out to their chopper. In the emergency response business, work never stops, and the OU Medical Center helicopter was needed at an accident scene.
The emergency call was soon canceled, and the medical helicopter returned to its space on the tarmac. But the quick takeoff and landing embodies the frantic, constantly changing environment involved with emergency response aviation, and that's why aircrews from across the region gathered Thursday at the old Downtown Airpark at Western Avenue and the Oklahoma River.
Oklahoma City police hosted a law enforcement aviation safety seminar Thursday at the airstrip, which is home to the two McDonnell Douglas MD-500 helicopters used by local police.
“This training is offered in other parts of the country, but it's not offered here,” said police Lt. Darla Woodruff, who leads the city police aviation unit. “We wanted to step up and provide this type of training for all these agencies.”
The city choppers were joined on the tarmac Thursday by other law enforcement helicopters from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Tulsa police and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, along with two Oklahoma Army National Guard helicopters, a firefighting helicopter from Texas, and medical and media helicopters.
Often, helicopters serving several purposes, both government and private, operate in the same airspace during emergency situations like wildfires and police standoffs. Woodruff said that heightens the need for coordination and cooperation.
“It's important that these pilots are on the same page,” Woodruff said. “They need to be receiving the same type of training.”
The seminar was organized through the Airborne Law Enforcement Association, a nonprofit group founded in 1968 to support and encourage aviation in public safety, said police Capt. Dexter Nelson, the department's chief spokesman.
Helicopter manufacturers and other vendors attended the seminar along with the helicopter crews and other emergency