Michigan State Police boasts 100 years of service, 78 yrs with troopers in the sky

Aircraft flown are Beech King Air 90, Cessna 182R, Bell 430, 206L3, 407GX and Aeryon SkyRanger UAS.

By Brent Bundy
Phoenix Police Officer-Pilot
AS350, AW 119, Cessna 182/172

LAN (Capital Region Intl, Lansing MI) serves as the MSP Aviation Section headquarters and mx base for the supervisors, pilots and support staff. Surveillance missions, transports, SAR and UAV operations throughout Michigan are coordinated here.

Tradition runs deep in the Michigan State Police (MSP). After a quick glance of the iconic "gumball light" on top of the infamous "Blue Goose" patrol vehicles, there is no mistaking that you are in the Great Lakes state. This year they will celebrate their 100th anniversary, and for 78 of those years they have had troopers in the sky.

First Lieutenant Chris Bush has commanded the Av Section and other specialty details for the MSP since 2013.

Covering over 96,000 sq miles, including 11,000 inland lakes, 3300 miles of shoreline and an international border, the task of providing law enforcement can be daunting.

With nearly 10 million residents spread across 83 counties, from heavily populated urban areas to some of the most desolate rural regions in the country, the job would be nearly impossible without assistance from the air. Although few in numbers, the troopers of the MSP Aviation Section are up to the task.


This 1939 Stinson Reliant was the 1st aircraft the MSP operated. It was flown in conjunction with the Michigan Aeronautics Dept.

As World War I was raging in Europe, there was concern for domestic security in America. On April 19, 1917, Michigan Governor Albert Sleeper founded the Michigan State Troops Permanent Force.

The unit was reorganized on March 26, 1919 and named the Michigan State Police. In the 100 years since their first patrols, the original 300 men working mostly on horseback has blossomed into over 1700 troopers and one of the most respected law enforcement agencies in the country.

The Aviation Section has flown a variety of airplanes over the years, including this twin-engine Cessna 401.

With national recognition for their crime lab and police vehicle testing standards, they have often paved the way in the latest crime prevention and investigatory techniques. And this holds true for their airborne policing as well.

Earliest records show the MSP joining forces with the Michigan Aeronautics Department (renamed as the Michigan Aeronautics Commission, now part of the Michigan Department of Transportation) and flying a 1939 Stinson Reliant. It is believed that this 1st aircraft was jointly used for transportation and traffic enforcement. By the late 1940s they had purchased 2 v-tailed Beechcraft Bonanza model 35s, adding a Cessna 170 and 180 in the early 1950s.

Bell 222 was the 1st twin-engine helicopter operated for law enforcement missions across the state.

Before the end of the 1960s, they acquired Cessna 205 and 185 models while also procuring their 1st helicopter, a 1969 Fairchild Hiller FH1100.

The expansion of the helicopter fleet continued with the addition of a military-surplus Bell 47G in 1971, a Bell 206B in 1972, and 2 Bell UH-1 Hueys (205s) in 1976.

In 1969 the MSP began its helo program with this Fairchild Hiller FH1100.

With the need to extend their reach further around the state while also increasing safety, in 1972 they purchased 2 twin-engine aircraft, a 1969 Piper Aztec and a Bell 222.

MSP continued with a string of Cessnas over the next 20 years, including 182s, 401s, 404s, and 421s, along with more Bell helicopters that were later sold.

Current aircraft fleet, usage and locations

Showing loyalty to the brands they've flown over the years, their fleet is still made up of Beechcraft, Cessna and Bell products. For fixed-wing operations, they fly a 1982 Cessna 182R purchased in 1984 and a 1978 Beechcraft King Air E90. The 182R is flown primarily for surveillance, training and limited staff transportation, and it's equipped with a FLIR 8500 for border work with the Custom and Border Patrol. With its larger passenger capacity and greater range, the King Air is used for moving tactical teams, prisoner extradition and VIP transport.

For helicopter missions, a 1990 Bell 206L-3 and 2015 Bell 407GX cover the majority of assignments while their 2000 Bell 430 handles the long or over-water missions. The new 407GX has quickly become the favorite among the pilots for its comfort, range, power, and state-of-the art Garmin G1000H avionics suite. The law enforcement package includes the Churchill Navigation Augmented Reality System for mapping, linked to a FLIR Star SAFIRE 380-HDc imaging system with HD and IR optics.

On-screen images can be transmitted to ground units through the on-board downlink antenna. Rounding out the inventory are the RHOTHETA direction finder/vehicle tracker, Motorola and Cobham radio's with Becker digital audio switcher, and the Spectrolab SX-16 searchlight. The prime missions for the helicopters are patrol, search and rescue, traffic enforcement, border security, and marijuana eradication.

These sorties are flown from MSP's 3 bases: Lansing, Willow Run, and MBS (Midland/Bay City/Saginaw). The headquarters and maintenance facility are located at the Lansing base.


First Lieutenant Chris Bush, a Frankenmuth, MI native and 2nd-generation trooper, is the commander of the Field Support and Aviation Section of the Special Operation Division. In addition to the air unit, he leads the K-9, bomb squad, emergency services (SWAT), and dive team. He has spent most of his 21 years with the MSP in specialty details, including as a K-9 handler and teaching at the academy. In the 3 years he has been at the helm of the Aviation Section, the need for more aircraft and people has been undeniable. "We need to be twice the size of what we are.


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