On Thursday, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon and members of his staff will go before a county committee to request funding for a helicopter.
According to Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas, the department currently has three helicopters but only two of them are functional. The third machine is being used for spare parts.
Lucas tells News 2 that the helicopters date back to the Vietnam War and that it is growing increasingly difficult to repair them.
“We don’t believe, that in their current state, the helicopters are as safe as they need to be,” Lucas said.
The condition of the helicopters has raised concerns about the welfare of the pilots and others within the department. Without going into specifics, Lucas indicated that there had been some “near-misses” over the years.
The department hopes to buy a used police helicopter that is already equipped with a thermal imaging system. Lucas says the move would cut maintenance costs.
The Air Support Unit provides support to other specialized units at the Sheriff’s Office. A post on the department’s website says it is the only full-time airborne law enforcement unit on the coast of South Carolina, and routinely provides support to other law enforcement agencies in the area.
“We depend on these helicopters quite a bit,” Lucas said. “Right now, only one of the two is flyable. The other one is being exhausted. We’re trying to make it safe.”
Thursday’s presentation before the Public Safety Committee is set to begin at 5 p.m. at the Lonnie Hamilton Public Services Building in North Charleston.