Louisville, Scott Co. also have helicopters

Lexington isn't the only police agency in the state with a helicopter.

Louisville, the Kentucky State Police and the Scott County Sheriff's Department are among the others.

The Louisville Metro Police Department uses its helicopter primarily for situations such as pursuits, crowd control and missing persons searches.

Patrol time is a bit more limited in Louisville than in Lexington, said Lt. Rich Sohan, commander of air patrol for the Louisville police.

Louisville currently has one helicopter, and it is budgeted for about 400 flight hours this year, or 7.7 hours a week.

That's down from about 800 flight hours a year several years ago, Sohan said.

In August 2006, the chopper crashed while a mechanic was being trained to fly it. No one was seriously injured, but it was out of commission for repairs for more than two years.

The city sold a backup helicopter in 2008 because of budget constraints, which meant that Louisville had no helicopters operating for a while.

Lexington lent its helicopter in a few cases, Sohan said.

While the police department was still able to do its job without a chopper, Sohan said its absence was felt. "It's the equivalent of seven police cars on the ground," he said.

While the Kentucky State Police has a fleet of six helicopters and four pilots, their "primary mission" is searching out and helping eradicate marijuana, said Lt. Brandon Hammers, assistant commander of the Aircraft Branch.

Between May and mid-October, the state police has a chopper in the air for six or seven hours a day, five days a week. They visit different parts of the state each week, picking up local "spotters" who show the pilots where to look.

One of the helicopters is also used to transport the governor, but those flights are paid for out of the governor's travel budget.

While the helicopters can be used for emergency calls, that can be difficult because most of them are based in Frankfort.

"A lot of times, we get there and the bad guy's already gone," Hammers said.

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