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The previously unnamed hangar is being dedicated to former Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee.
On Wednesday, October 31, 2018, at 10 a.m.
, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office unveiled the name of its Aviation Unit hangar. The previously unnamed hangar is being dedicated to former Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee to honor his longtime passion for flying and the advancements he made possible in the Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit during his time as Sheriff.
Upon taking office in 2004, Sheriff David Gee, a certified commercial rotorcraft pilot, played a major role in continuing the transition to Airbus helicopters. He believed in the important role the Aviation Unit plays in public safety and rapid response. During his time at HCSO, Sheriff Gee even provided coverage to the unit as a line pilot when needed, covering shifts to allow others time off. Sheriff Gee has served as Southeastern Region Director for the Airborne Law Enforcement Association. The dedication ceremony on Wednesday, October 31, 2018, to rename the hangar the “Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office David Gee Aviation Complex,” is the first time the aviation hangar has been named in someone’s honor.
HISTORY OF HCSO AVIATION UNIT
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit began operations in the early 1970s, first utilizing a Hughes 269 aircraft, later a Bell 206 in the early 1980s, the first medivac helicopter operating in the county, and finally transitioning to military surplus OH-58’s.
Under Sheriff Cal Henderson and then Chief Deputy David Gee, who had a passion for aviation, HCSO began switching from military surplus helicopters, which had limited replacement parts, required significant costly upgrades, and could not be sold, to an all Airbus fleet. This provided a higher standard of helicopter that met all FAA regulations, and followed industry best practices with easily accessible replacement parts and more efficient training for pilots on a single make and model of aircraft. Coincidentally, the first AS350 was ordered on September 11, 2001 (9/11), the date of the terrorist attacks on the United States.
PRESENT DAY AVIATION UNIT
The Aviation Unit is comprised of four (4) Airbus AS350 helicopters and a Cessna 208 Caravan. The aircrafts are operated and managed by eight (8) pilots, two (2) full time FAA certified mechanics, and (1) supervisor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. The unit’s coverage area (Hillsborough County) is approximately 1,266 square miles of land and water, with approximately 1.4 million residents. HCSO pilots amass nearly 2,000 flight hours each year answering calls for service, conducting surveillance, hoist operations, search and rescues, transporting prisoners, as well as assisting other law enforcement agencies in the area. The Aviation Section also assists Hillsborough County Fire Rescue throughout the year with brush fire suppression. Utilizing a Bambi Bucket, they have the capability to dump up to 120 gallons of water on a fire.