Austin police have a new tool to fight crime and fires. The new air one chopper is being unveiled on the week of 2nd anniversary of the Bastrop wildfires.
Friday morning the newest APD Air One helicopter landed at Austin Bergstrom International Airport. It is bigger and better than its predecessor.
Chief Art Acevedo lead the unveiling.
"We are not only going to increase our capability with pursuits, foot pursuits, search and rescue, firefighting, but most importantly, in a city where we are limited in police resources, it's going to be a force multiplier with the additional coverage we will be able to give our officers," said Acevedo
The new chopper can carry more officers on board. It can carry more fuel so that officers have more time in the air. It also allows the department to drop officers at crime scenes from the air.
"It expands our mission greatly. We're able to support the cops on the ground. We're able to support the regional area of Austin if they need assets, SWAT or E.O.D. assets we can get them to them quicker," said flight officer Kurt Rothert.
The biggest benefit is underneath the aircraft. The new air one can carry a 180 gallon water bucket.
It is the first City of Austin owned aircraft with firefighting capabilities. It is exclusively for the Austin Fire Department.
"They don't have to wait in line because it will be our number one priority we don't have to share with anyone else. It is ours," Acevedo said.
Austin flight officers have assisted with fires for years. The pilots use the thermal imaging camera on the aircraft to guide firefighters to hotspots. Now they can fight fires and carry a firefighter on board to instruct firefighters on the ground.
"We couldn't be happier about having it," said Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief Harry Evans.
The aircraft will be in full service within a week.
City council approved of the chopper last fall. It cost $3.7 million dollars.
Mayor Lee Leffingwell attended the press conference and said that he supports adding even more aircraft to the fleet.