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Harford sheriff's helicopter renamed SABLE 1 from Eagle 1

The Harford County Sheriff's Office's helicopter, whose unit is under review, has been renamed SABLE 1 from Eagle 1.
The Harford County Sheriff's Office's helicopter, whose unit is under review, has been renamed SABLE 1 from Eagle 1.(MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The Harford County Sheriff's Office helicopter has a new name, at least to some.

Eagle 1, as it had been known, will be going by SABLE 1, which stands for Sheriff's Airborne Law Enforcement, according to Cristie Kahler, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office.

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As part of an ongoing assessment of the year-old aviation unit, which Sheriff Jeff Gahler began upon taking office earlier this month, it was found that the helicopter was going by two names, Kahler wrote in an email.

While the sheriff's office and the community knew the helicopter as Eagle 1, it has been registered with the FAA since its inception as SABLE 1.

"To avoid any confusion and to avoid any potential safety risks, the use of the name Eagle 1 has been discontinued," Kahler wrote.

She added Thursday that other aircraft are registered as Eagle 1, so the sheriff's office's couldn't be regardless.

She did not know why, if the helicopter was registered as SABLE 1, it wasn't called by that name internally or in the community.

Gahler has been critical of the helicopter program, citing a need for more deputies on the streets, and recently hired Robert McGainey, a former lieutenant colonel with the Maryland State Police, to spearhead a review of the unit, which was started by Gahler's predecessor, Jesse Bane.

The Sheriff's Office, which previously relied on the Maryland State Police or Baltimore County for helicopter support, acquired the federal surplus Bell OH-58 helicopter in late 2013, and the aircraft took to the air in April of 2014.

During the period the helicopter has been operational, the Sheriff's Office credited it with aiding in several chases and apprehensions involving fleeing suspects, among other assistance provided to deputies on the ground.

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The aviation unit, which is based in rented space in Forest Hill, includes two pilots and eight tactical flight officers. The Sheriff's Office did not pay for the helicopter and, when the unit was created, officials said operational and maintenance costs would be covered by money seized in drug cases.

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