- Associated Press - Saturday, September 26, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Department of Public Safety now has two brand new aircraft under its wing.

New Skytruck aircraft that arrived this summer will take flight next month after pilots are trained, DPS officials said this week.

“This will have a drastic operational impact to better provide that public safety aspect,” said Terry Miyauchi, DPS aviation administrator.

The state received the aircraft for free through a federal government program that transfers surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies. These aircraft are a model that the U.S. Air Force started using in 2009 but is now phasing out. Skytrucks were utilized to carry small groups or heavy loads in operations in Africa and Afghanistan. Airplanes obtained through the program are generally old and not certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.

These aircraft, however, are new and estimated to cost between $10 million and $14 million, Miyauchi said.

The two planes come at a time when the state is downsizing its aviation fleet, the Arizona Capitol Times reported (https://bit.ly/1VhFnsZ ). DPS is trying to offload two older planes and one owned by the Arizona Department of Transportation. The selling of these planes was not connected to the acquiring of these Skytrucks, Miyauchi said.

Upon their arrival at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in June, the planes took travelers and baggage handlers by surprise.

“They’re definitely unique,” DPS aviation supervisor Andy Dobis said.

The planes are the aviation equivalent of heavy-duty pickup trucks, Dobis added.

The Skytrucks can move a fully-equipped SWAT team or carry a bomb robot. Miyauchi says they will be useful in emergency situations such as wildfires, where lots of people and equipment have to move quickly. The aircraft can also land on an 800-foot dirt strip or unimproved landing strips.

With two planes, there should be one available if one needs repair or maintenance.

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Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, https://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com


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