THP helicopter makes special stop at Happy Valley Elementary

Published 1:00 am Friday, May 8, 2015

Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter made a special landing at Happy Valley Elementary School Thursday morning.

No need to worry. It wasn’t an emergency. Students were given an up close look at the THP’s helicopter as they learned about different jobs the highway patrol does and received some safety tips.

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“You’ve probably seen the troopers out on patrol in their cars, but the highway patrol is involved in other projects,” THP Pilot Mark Musick said.

The visit to the school is part of the THP’s Community Outreach Program. The THP visits schools and other community organizations throughout Tennessee to share information on the highway patrol.

The THP helicopter, a Jet Ranger Bell 206B, made its early morning landing on the school’s playground. The students were brought out in small groups to take a look at the helicopter and to hear from Musick about how the aircraft is put to use.

The main way the highway patrol uses the helicopter is for search and rescue operations, Musick said.

“We have two types of searches, criminal and noncriminal” Musick told the students. “A criminal search would be if there was a bank robbery, or a suspect had tried to run away. We would fly over the area to see if we could spot them. A noncriminal search would be if a kid was lost, or an Alzheimer’s patient was missing or if someone went hiking and got lost in the woods.”

The whirlybird is also used during the summer months to spot marijuana growing operations from the sky, Musick said. The helicopter is part of the Governor’s Task Force on Marijuana Eradication.

The THP has a larger “Huey” helicopter with hoist capabilities used to lift people out of areas during rescue operations.

The highway patrol has three pilots, Musick said, and averages 1,500 to 2,000 hours of flight time each year.