A small crowd gathered Thursday at the Blair Airport for a ribbon-cutting for the Omaha Police Department’s new air support hangar.
Those in attendance saw $1.2 million in hangar renovations that include a gym, large storage spaces and offices for the department’s air support staff. In his remarks, Omaha Deputy Police Chief Kerry Neumann said the site had been a “shell of a hangar” before the renovations.
In November, the Omaha City Council approved an agreement to house the city’s air support unit at the Blair Airport, ending a 22-year period at the North Omaha Airport. Under the agreement with Blair, Omaha will pay $36,000 annually for five years. After that, the lease will grow to $37,200 per year for three years, then increase every three years by $100 a month.
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“We’re confident we’re going to be here through our 10-year lease agreement,” Neumann said, “but we’re probably going to be here for many years beyond that as well.”
Sgt. Allan Straub, the air support unit commander, pointed out the increased amount of floor space for helicopters at the new site and “hoist beams,” which allow crews to lift helicopters off the hangar floor, providing more flexibility in and around the hangar.
“This gives us the opportunity to work on a helicopter and not have to worry about the one right next to it,” he said.
Straub added that he was proud of the forward-thinking nature of the hangar’s renovations. The hangar, he said, gives the unit room to grow, if necessary.
In April, the air support unit lost one of its three helicopters when it lost engine power midflight and the pilots had to make an emergency landing in a field. The landing caused the aircraft’s rotor blades to make contact with its tail, essentially totaling the helicopter, Neumann said.
Neither of the pilots were injured.
Neumann said that the unit hopes to add a third helicopter back to its fleet and that the Blair hangar will allow the unit to expand to four or five helicopters at some point.
“It’s going to take some time,” he said. “So we’re going to be patient with it and see what our options are.”