Air One Choppers OKC Police Departments Eyes In The Sky

Wednesday, October 5th 2011, 10:08 pm
By: News 9

Adrianna Iwasinski, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- You usually can see them and hear them patrolling the streets of Oklahoma City from high above. They are the Oklahoma City Police Department's eyes in the sky. There's a lot that takes place behind the scenes.

On a typical weekday morning the crew members at the downtown airpark are getting the two Air One choppers ready to fly.

"Within five minutes time we can be airborne and en route to a call," says Officer Steve Cooper.

Typically, Air One flies as a two man unit, with one officer serving as the pilot and the other serving as the observer who handles all the police work.

"But when we fly around, it's basically like a two-man patrol car that flies. In the air, we're looking for suspicious activity, disturbances that are happening on the ground, vehicles that look like they are abandoned or stolen," Officer Tod Yates said.

Yates is a commercial helicopter pilot as well as an Oklahoma City police officer.

"It was a perfect marriage between law enforcement and a passion I already had," he said.

He even trained his partner Steve Cooper, who actually got his flight training on the force.

"There's just so much we can see in the air that they can't see on the ground. You can be within feet of a suspect or vehicle or a missing person and not even be aware of it," Cooper said.

And though they are up in the air, they are not always out of harm's way. Air One has been shot at.

"It was on the vertical stabilizer on the rear of the aircraft and fortunately it didn't penetrate through. If it did, it could have hit a tail rotor and caused a catastrophic failure," Cooper said.

Despite how exposed they are, the airborne officers said they feel pretty safe.

Yates has been with the air support unit for 13 years and he says his favorite part of the job is saving lives.

"We do a great job as far as protecting the public from the criminals, but one of the things they don't see is how many lives we save from locating missing people," Yates said.

"One time, we had a call and we saved a couple of young girls who were drowning at the time," he said.

Air One also assisted during the recent rash of wildfires.

And like many officers, Cooper and Yates say they truly love their jobs and hope to be able to be the department's eye in the sky for many years to come.

Cooper and Yates are two of eight pilots who fly Air One.

Yates has actually trained all the other police pilots as well.