A police sky knight returns to the air

helicopter-2By Joe Lambe

Retired police captain Jack Brady – one of the original Kansas City police chopper pilots in 1968 – rode Monday in a new model.

Brady, 87, said he last piloted more than three decades ago but was “ready to straighten some of these young guys out.”

Don’t do too many aerobatics, the pilot told the Kansas City man.

“Do they roll all right?” Brady asked of the new machines.

Much has changed since he was one of the “lucky six” chosen from more than 200 volunteers for that first helicopter training.

helicopter-1They were called the Sky Knight Program. They trained in Long Beach, Ca., chasing the jack rabbits that covered the airport tarmac.

Then they flew three Hughes 300 helicopters back to Kansas City.

“When we started, I’d say 95 percent of police commanders didn’t think it would last,” he said. “Some of those guys are dead now.”

The program proved itself partly by spotting stolen cars from the air.

“We would get 30 or 40 stolen cars a month,” he said.

helicopter-4Then there was the time a young girl ran away and he flew above while a speaker on his chopper blared “go home, go home.”

“Later that little girl almost fell into the doorway,” he said. “She said the angels told her to go home.”

Brady had a close call once when two police choppers collided, but he landed his damaged machine.

He said the other one crashed and the two-man crew was knocked unconscious but survived. It was in a bad part of town, though, and thieves stole the officers’ guns and wallets before they woke up, Brady said.

helicopter-3Those first three helicopters cost about $300,000 each. He knows because he signed for them, he said.

The three new ones recently cost a total of about $8.6 million.

After his flight, someone asked him what he thought was most different about them from the originals.

“The power, the power in this thing,” he said.

They flew over city hall and the Country Club Plaza.

Much has changed from the air in the decades since his last flight, he said. But some things stayed the same.

“It was fun,” he said. “I enjoyed it.”

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