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Tennessee Highway Patrol Announces Permanent Aviation Support for West Tennessee

Friday, March 08, 2013 | 06:05am

JACKSON --- Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons joined Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) Colonel Tracy Trott to announce the permanent assignment of a THP helicopter and pilot to assist with aviation support of law enforcement in west Tennessee.  This permanent aviation support will enhance public safety by increasing response time to incidents or missions in the western areas of the state.

“We have always been committed to helping our local, state, and federal partners.  By basing a helicopter and pilot in Jackson, the Tennessee Highway Patrol can now assist those agencies in west Tennessee faster and more efficiently,” Gibbons said.

Trooper Lee Russell has been assigned to pilot the helicopter.  Russell is a native of west Tennessee and graduated from the University of Tennessee Martin.  He previously served with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office as a rotorcraft and fixed wing pilot for the 24th Judicial Drug Task before graduating from the THP Trooper Cadet Academy in 2010. Russell has been assigned to the Aviation Section and has undergone advanced flight training focusing on airborne law enforcement techniques.

“Our pilot is always on-call, ready to respond anywhere he is needed in west Tennessee. Trooper Russell has excelled in all areas of his advanced training and will no doubt prove to be a great asset to public safety in west Tennessee,” Trott said.

The aircraft is a 206 B Bell Jet Ranger. The helicopter is equipped with F.L.I.R.® (Forward-Looking Infra-Red that detects infrared energy (heat) that produces a thermal image. It is also equipped with a 20 million candle power Nightsun® searchlight and specialized radios that allow pilots to communicate with most emergency agencies. THP pilots are equipped Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) which offer the pilot a much better view during hours of darkness, allowing a higher level of safety and capability. Soon, the helicopter will be equipped with LoJack® which will aid in locating and recovering stolen vehicles. The system will be in operation at all times while the helicopter is in use.

The THP helicopter can be used in supporting efforts for vehicle surveillance; vehicle and foot pursuits; searches for criminal suspects; searches for missing, lost and/or endangered individuals which could include children, adults, and the mentally disabled. It can also provide air cover during critical incidents; photo flights for investigative purposes; post natural and manmade disaster missions; damage assessments; search

and rescue of individuals in need of faster extraction for their wellbeing or situations that are impractical for ground personnel. Other duties could include educational details; and support for high-risk situations such as executing a search warrant or other unstable scenarios.

With the centralized location of the helicopter, it will allow for the most effective response times throughout west Tennessee. From its home in Jackson, the THP helicopter could respond to Tiptonville (Reelfoot Lake area) in 30 minutes; Memphis in 50 minutes; Paris (Kentucky Lake area) in 30 minutes; and Savannah (Pickwick Lake area) in 35 minutes. Previously, the THP would dispatch a pilot and helicopter from Nashville adding an hour or more to the response time.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to ensure that our state is a safe, secure place in which to live, work and travel; enforce the law with integrity; and provide customer-focused services professionally and efficiently.

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