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The city is considering purchasing a pre-owned MD500 turbine helicopter to add to the Mosquito Control Division squadron.
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Aug. 30, 201612:00 PM EST

A new weapon in the sky: City may buy $800,000 used helicopter for mosquito fight

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Look up in the sky: It might be a bird, it might be a plane.

Or, if City Council approves a proposed $800,000 purchase, it might be an addition to the war against mosquitoes in Duval County.

A bill is being considered to approve the purchase of a helicopter to add more spraying capability.

The Mosquito Control Division currently operates two piston-engine helicopters — one is 22 years old and the other is 42 years old — to kill mosquitoes in the 850-square-mile county.

The city proposes using about $490,000 in funds designated by the Risk Management Department to purchase a pre-owned MD500 turbine helicopter to replace the older aircraft.

The remaining funds — about $310,000 — would come from a non-departmental line item balance in the 2015-16 budget.

According to a report prepared for the Mayor’s Budget Review Committee, in addition to purchasing the helicopter, a city pilot will be trained and certified to fly the turbine helicopter at an estimated cost of $10,000. He will train other pilots to fly the new aircraft.

A pesticide-spraying system will be installed for about $54,500.

In addition, about $48,000 for repair and maintenance supplies and $10,000 for fuel will bring the total cost of the new helicopter to about $922,000.

The average annual maintenance and operations cost of the existing helicopters is about $37,000.

The report recommended keeping the older helicopters to supplement inspection and spraying operations, thus reducing time on the turbine helicopter’s components.

It noted the city might choose to continue to operate only one of the current helicopters, reducing operations cost and allowing the oldest aircraft to be used for parts, since selling it would result in marginal one-time revenue.

The city also maintains the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Air Unit. It comprises six helicopters, ranging in age from 12-46 years. The unit is supported by eight pilots, three maintenance personnel and a unit commander, said spokeswoman Lauri-Ellen Smith.

The police choppers are used for routine air patrol and to support activities on the ground, such as traffic management, searches and rescues.

The sheriff’s office has no plans to replace any of its helicopters, Smith said.

The legislation for the mosquito control helicopter will be reviewed and scheduled for public hearings by the council Finance and Public Health & Safety committees.

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