SUU Aviation and Iron County Sheriff’s Office Hope to Split the Responsibility of a New Helicopter

Southern Utah University’s aviation team has temporarily gotten their hands on a new helicopter on behalf of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office is currently appealing for a grant to purchase the new helicopter. 

SUU Aviation Director of Safety and Flight Operations Richard Cannon asserted that if the sheriff’s office wins their grant appeal for the helicopter funding, it would be beneficial to Iron County and other surrounding counties.

“The sheriff is wanting it because there isn’t a helicopter in southern Utah,” Cannon said. “Utah Highway Patrol covers the northern part of the state, but there’s nothing down here.”

There is a minimum wait of up to two and a half hours for UHP to send a helicopter from Salt Lake City, and the new Bell 407 would be able to respond within minutes, Cannon said. 

“These are pretty commonly used aircraft for sheriff’s operations, and also for emergency medical operations,” he said. “In fact, this was originally a Delaware State Police helicopter.”

Should the sheriff’s grant appeal fall through, they would be out a helicopter with substantially more power than the Bell 206’s that SUU Aviation already has. Cannon said the 407 they have on lease can carry more weight, fly at higher altitudes and is outfitted with rappel hooks and a hoist. 

SUU Aviation students have been able to use the new helicopter for the mountain flying lab, but further use hangs on approval of the sheriff’s office’s grant, Cannon said. 

“The agreement we’re tentatively working on with the sheriff’s office would be that we can still use it for flight training so long as they don’t need it,” he said. “The vast majority of the time it would be a flight training vehicle. We’re trying to do a collaborative agreement as well, where it could be a multi-use helicopter. Not just Iron County would use it, but Washington, Kane and the other surrounding counties could have access to it as well.”

In exchange for use of the helicopter for flight training, SUU Aviation would provide the maintenance for the new aircraft, as well as provide the pilots for any operations the sheriff’s office may need. 

“They’re actively working on their grant,” Cannon said. “Any grant can be extremely painful to try and get, but we’re optimistic they’ll get it.” 


Story by Janzen Jorgensen
Photo courtesy of Richard Cannon