BILLINGS, Mont. - Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, that's the new Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office helicopter. Residents will soon see a new chopper flying around the county.

Through the Federal 1033 Surplus Program, which allows law enforcement agencies to access equipment from the government, and with help from the Billings Flying Service, Sheriff Mike Linder was able to acquire three retired military helicopters at no cost. 

Sheriff Linder says one of the helicopters will be used for search and rescue missions, while the other two will be dismantled for parts. Billings flying service has agreed to pilot the helicopter and help with maintenance. Sheriff Linder says the new helicopter will be good for the community.

"When you figure out how much area you can cover, how much search you can do with one helicopter in a couple hours, versus a dozen people in a full day, the time is so critical, getting to someone...can make the difference of saving a life or possibly not," Linder said.

Now that a budget transfer from within the public safety sheriff’s fund has been approved by the county commissioners board, Sheriff Linder says the next step is to arrange for a storage unit and get the helicopter a paint job.

Sheriff Linder says it’s pretty unique for an agency in Montana to have a helicopter and he anticipates unveiling the new chopper in March of 2021.

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