Texas Dept of Public Safety uses Airbus helos, Cessna Caravan, Pilatus PC12 and more to keep order and protect citizens

For almost 70 years, dedicated DPS officers have flown across Texas to accomplish search & rescue, find marijuana growers, aid in disaster relief, apprehend criminals and spot illegal entrants.

Along the southern border

Major Tony Ashley coordinates all training for the DPS pilots. This includes initial, recurrent and any special training he arranges such as SAR and hoist operations.

With 1254 miles to cover, Texas has the longest stretch of any state adjoining Mexico. Prior to taking over the DPS in 2009, Director McCraw saw first-hand the issues faced with border-enforcement while heading up the Texas Homeland Security. This undoubtedly played a part in his expansion and addition of equipment for the Aviation Division.

Supervising these southern border operations is Major Stacy Holland. Holland is a Houston native who has been in law enforcement for 24 years, 20 of those at the DPS. With a longtime fascination with aviation, by the time he joined the division he already had 3500 hours of flight time, much of that due to being assigned to west Texas. "There's really not much to do there," he jokes.

While gaining his now 14,000+ flight hours, he has obtained just about all the ratings available and still flies every one of the aircraft the DPS utilizes.
Because Holland spent most of his career in southern Texas, coordinating the border operations is a natural fit and he's making the most of it. He monitors the daily operations and special missions from the 7 duty stations staffed with 3 captains and 25 pilots under his control.

"We were one of the first to come down hard on drug dealing. We were doing border security when it wasn't cool to do border security," he explains. "When I first got here, we needed more equipment.

We recorded video of what we saw, took it to the leadership, and they got us the resources we needed." This included the 2 Pilatus PC12s, in which Holland was integral to outfitting and completion.


Major Stacy Holland supervises operations along the southern border. He was also instrumental in the outfitting of the 2 Pilatus PC12 Spectres. Shown here is the tactical command station which is the epicenter for operations from these versatile aircraft.

With the recent influx of new high-tech gear, the unit is far better equipped to complete their missions than just a few years ago. Their impact on statewide enforcement is apparent in the nearly 11,000 flight hours flown during 6000 missions resulting in over 4000 arrests and the seizure of $80 million in narcotics in 2016 alone.

When asked about the future of the division, Chief Nabors is happy with the path they are on and wants to continue in that direction. While he recognizes the new role of unmanned aerial systems, he feels their application may be limited in a state as large as Texas.

Just like most airborne law enforcement units, he would like to see more aircraft, more bases and more hours in the air. He also sees a bigger role for fixed-wing aircraft. "Those things will come with time. The main goal for us is to have a crew standing by, ready to respond, when the highway patrol needs us," he states.


Mechanic Tim Wilhelm inspects an AStar at the main base in Austin. All major work
is completed here with minor jobs and inspections done at the aircraft's assigned base.

For nearly 70 years, the Great State of Texas has had the privilege of providing law enforcement from an airborne platform. From the days of simply providing easier transportation in small airplanes to the present time of the most modern aircraft with technology unimaginable in the early days, keeping a watchful and protective eye on an ever-expanding population with border security at an all-time high priority.

Exceptional support from management, state leaders and the people they serve has allowed expansion from a small detail to a powerful, necessary entity within a preeminent police agency.

Chief Pilot Bill Nabors sums it up well when he states, "Aviation is a tremendous tool for assisting law enforcement and public safety. With the equipment we have today, the future is brighter and brighter." Whatever that future may be, the members of the Texas Department of Public Safety Aircraft Operations Division will be ready to carry on the traditions of the past while opening new boundaries ahead.

Brent Bundy has been a police officer with the Phoenix Police Dept for 25 years. He has served in the PHX Air Support Unit for 15 years and is a helicopter rescue pilot with nearly 4000 hours of flight time. Bundy currently flies Airbus AS350B3s and AgustaWestland AW119s for the helicopter side of Phoenix PD's air unit and Cessna 172/182s for the fixed-wing side.


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