FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Today, the United States Park Police Aviation Unit celebrated its 40th Anniversary. Since 1973, the brave men and women of this unit have saved thousands of lives through medevacs, river and mountain top rescues and supported regional law enforcement agencies in their mission to protect the public. In 1982, the Aviation Unit first gained worldwide notoriety with the rescue of five passengers from the doomed Air Florida flight 90 out of National Airport, when it crashed into the icy waters of the Potomac River. Park Police Aviation also lead the way with medevacs from the Pentagon and helped control the air space around D.C. on September 11, 2001. While these are just two shining examples of the unit’s stellar history, the real story lies in the lives they save every day, that go relatively unnoticed, except by the people they have rescued or medevac’d. Though the U.S. Park Police has become an integral part of law enforcement and public safety in the Washington D.C. region, the unit’s future is uncertain. Faced with aging equipment and a lack of solid funding, the unit will need to acquire a new helicopter very soon. One of the aircraft was purchased in 1990 and has gone well beyond its intended use as a multipurpose, law enforcement and medevac helicopter. Maintenance is becoming so costly so as to make it non-cost effective. Getting the roughly 18 million dollars to invest in new aircraft to ensure the area’s public safety has become challenging. The National Park Service and the Department of Interior will have to look very closely at priorities in order to secure the funding and the Fraternal Order of Police is hopeful they will do just that. The alternative paints a much gloomier picture for the future of medevacs and river rescues in this area as well as the unintended consequences it would have on public safety.
Ian R. Glick