When it was purchased, the Connecticut State Police hailed their "Trooper One" helicopter as a state-of-the-art tool for law enforcement ... and it made appearances all over the state. In 2002 ... its first full year of operation ... the aircraft flew nearly 1,000 hours over 490 missions.
Television station WFSB found that last year, the helo flew only 42 missions totalling 42 hours.
State police officials told the station that the reason is simple; the state's tight budget kept the expensive helicopter grounded while they rely on three more-economical fixed-wing aircraft for most of the flying. Annual maintenance on the helicopter runs about $300,000, and Police Lt. Paul Vance said that just the fuel for Trooper One is about $250 per hour.
There have been some concerns raised about who is allowed to fly the helo, to the extent that one former state trooper sued the department for racial discrimination and won a large settlement after claiming he was denied a slot flying the aircraft even though he was qualified.
Vance said that even though Trooper One is expensive to fly and maintain, it is worth the cost "if it locates one child or saves one life."
The helicopter became a topic of discussion during the state's budget crisis last year. In a prepared statement, Gov. Dannel Malloy said while all state agencies are continually evaluating their resources, he plans to keep the helicopter for now. "Trooper One is a state asset that has been used during many emergencies across the state and at this time will continue to be a resource," he said.