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ACSO chopper back on patrol for weekend

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — The Adams County Sheriff’s Office helicopter flies over the Mississippi River Oct. 13 for the Phatwater Kayak Challenge for the first time after being grounded for five months to change parts.

NATCHEZ — After being grounded for approximately five months, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office helicopter is back in service and will be circling the skies during the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.

The helicopter, which was grounded in late May to stay in compliance with Federal Aviation Agency guidelines, made its redebut last weekend at the Phatwater Kayak Challenge, Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said.

“The FAA requires you to change parts every so many hours of flight you do, so we had to ground the helicopter until we could get the parts,” Mayfield said.

Those parts and repairs included four $8,000 straps and the resyncing and rebalancing of the helicopter’s rotor, Mayfield said.

The chopper was grounded for as long as it was, the sheriff said, because the sheriff’s office wanted to save as much money on repairs as it could.

“We were trying to get everything we could donated and not spend any money if we could help it,” Mayfield said.

Ultimately, the sheriff said the ACSO’s pilot, Stephen Guido, was able to connect with people he knew and get the parts and labor for the helicopter repairs donated.

The parts were donated by Coastal Helicopters of Panama City, Fla., and a helicopter mechanic who lives in the area, Carl Sandidge, did the repairs for free.

Another mechanic, who Mayfield said asked not to be named, donated approximately $800 worth of work in the rebalancing of the rotors.

While the helicopter is used for air patrols during the balloon and kayak races, Mayfield said most of the time it is used for search and rescue operations and in drug interdiction cases. It was used extensively during the flooding of 2011 to inspect local levees for sand boils and to check local oil wells and pumping stations.

The sheriff said the helicopter is just like any large public safety vehicle or large type of machinery has to be flown every few weeks to ensure it works properly.

While it was grounded, the ACSO had two requests for the aircraft’s use, one from Metro Narcotics and one from Franklin County law enforcement, Mayfield said.

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