The Air Support Unit was established in 2005 when the United States Army donated to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office a Bell OH-58 helicopter, designated “Air - 1.” Since then, the Air Support Unit has provided valuable search and rescue, fugitive searching, fire suppression, surveillance, homeland security critical infrastructure checks, natural disaster damage assessment, and patrol services to the Inland Northwest.
As the only local law enforcement helicopter operated in the region, the Air Support Unit has been used throughout the Inland Northwest in locations as far away as Chelan County, Walla Walla County, Kootenai County, Stevens County, Whitman County, Lincoln County, Yakima County, and Klickitat County. The Air Support Unit is located at Felts Field.
Air-1 is equipped with Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR), which allows the air crew to detect heat on the ground. FLIR can be used to locate both missing people and hiding fugitives. Air-1 is also equipped with night vision goggles, a 30 million candle power search light, and GPS moving map system. In addition, Air-1 is equipped with a microwave downlink which transmits live video from the helicopter to the Mobile Command Vehicle. The microwave downlink allows police and fire staff to see real-time video from the helicopter, and make timely decisions based on what they see. Air-1 is capable of carrying up to four people.
The Air Support Unit pilots are a safe and committed group of volunteers with thousands of hours of experience. These experienced and professional aviators have backgrounds in flight instruction, military aviation, air medevac, and airborne law enforcement. These volunteers are available around the clock for emergency call outs, and provide a valuable service to their community.
Tactical Flight Officers
The Tactical Flight Officers are comprised of Deputies for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. Tactical Flight Officers are all assigned additional duties within the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office when not on an airborne mission. Tactical Flight Officers are responsible for operating all of the law enforcement equipment including FLIR, search light, and law enforcement radios.
Air-1 is used during peak times for priority calls, and is also available on an on-call basis around the clock. In 2011, Air-1 received 55 call-out requests, responded to 583 calls for service, and was involved in over 90 arrests. Air-1 was also the first unit to arrive on scene in over fifty percent of the calls it responded to.