Robeson County Sheriff adds OH-58

Robeson County Sheriff adds OH-58

23-Oct-2023 Source: Robeson County Sheriff

The Robeson County Sheriff’s Office debuted its newest addition to its fleet Thursday morning at the Lumberton Municipal Airport. In attendance where several County Commissioners, County Administrators, Senator Danny Britt, and many others.

Initially assigned to the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office and after an agreement between Sheriff Bill Rogers and Sheriff Burnis Wilkins, a helicopter acquired through the state’s Law Enforcement Support Office has now been reassigned by the state to the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office.

“Receiving a helicopter from the state Department of Public Safety LESO Program (Law Enforcement Support Office) is something I have worked towards since taking office in 2018,” says Sheriff Burnis Wilkins. “As the state’s largest landmass county, this addition will be beneficial in assisting with surveillance and search operations, searches for wanted, missing and endangered persons, and other airborne operations to assist our first responders. Since becoming Sheriff, we have called for the use of a helicopter from the highway patrol, Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, and Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office over thirty times. Missing persons, a murder suspect and stolen property have been tracked in our county utilizing such aircraft.”

The Robeson County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Division will now use this Bell Ranger OH-58 Helicopter and two Drones to provide air support to the county and surrounding counties upon request. The sheriff’s office also received another non-flyable helicopter for parts, valued in excess of over one hundred thousand dollars. That helicopter has since been cannibalized for parts, and the remaining fuselage will be returned to the state.

The Aviation Division consists of an RCSO licensed Pilot, a licensed aircraft mechanic and a Forward Observer with decades of experience between the three. The Forward Observer is responsible for many valuable functions in the sky, such as backup navigation, field observation, communications, and camera operations.

The Aviation Division’s multifaceted mission includes surveillance flights, active searches for criminal suspects, searching for lost or endangered individuals, search and rescue missions, and disaster assessments. It will provide airborne support to Robeson County’s Emergency Services and Fire Departments.

The helicopter’s vantage point permits observation of activities not seen by ground officers, such as on rooftops, fenced yards, and fields. At normal patrol speeds and altitudes, a helicopter can keep an object in view on the ground ten times longer than a ground officer moving at normal street patrol speeds.

In addition to its many law enforcement applications, the helicopter may be required to assist other agencies in diversified missions. The Aviation Division also plays an active and critical role in activities relating to public relations and can offer an enjoyable engagement with kids.

Training personnel will continue with an emphasis on safety, search and rescue efforts. The aviation division seeks to add Forward Looking InfraRed (FLIR) and floodlight capabilities to the helicopter soon.

The helicopter itself and mandated maintenance come at no cost to the county. The sheriff’s office also received a fueling truck from the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office at no cost.

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