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Whirlybird purchase defies logic

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In reference to the article “Placer County’s $4M chopper airborne” in today’s (March 17) Journal, I’d like to make a few comments. I’m a retired 10,000-hour helicopter pilot with experience in both military and commercial aviation. I’ve flown in and run programs that flew in excess of 1,000 hours per year and in others that logged only a couple of hundred hours per year, so I know a little about the economics of operating helicopters. Given the state of the present economy and the continuing budget constraints facing Placer County, spending $4 million for a “new” helicopter was a decision that defied all common sense and fiscal responsibility. Sheriff Ed Bonner, who pushed for the purchase, and the county supervisors that approved the funding, are all equally to blame for this foolish expenditure. Kudos to Supervisor Jim Holmes for being the only person involved in this fiasco who made the right call. The article points out that the “old Army-surplus” helicopter formerly used by the sheriffs department flew 850 hours a year, while the “new” helicopter can operate only 300 hours per year on the same budget. Do the math and the “new” helicopter looks even more like a colossal blunder and waste of money. My advice to Sheriff Bonner is to hang on to the “old Army-surplus” helicopter and sell the “new” helicopter while it is still worth something. TILLMAN L. JEFFREY, Loomis