OPD's new chief pilot has his sights set on the future

BLAIR, Neb. (WOWT) - The OPD air support unit is down to one helicopter after a year of crashes grounded two others.

The loss forcing major changes in leadership moving forward.

The new chief pilot, Frank Peck, is focused on the future.

"That's exactly what we're going to be, is better than we are today, we'll be better tomorrow and we'll be better the next day," Peck tells 6 News.

2019 was marred by crashes of two of the department's three helicopters. The city of Omaha hired an outside consultant to inspect the air support unit. One of their key recommendations was to hire a new, more experienced chief.

"I was pretty honored to get the opportunity," Peck said. "You know, I'm excited to progress forward and to make ourselves even better than what we currently are."

Frank peck has been in his role as chief pilot for OPD about two weeks now, but he's no stranger to the skies.

"I retired from the Nebraska state patrol, with about just over 29 years. Approximately the last 18 years of that, I was running the state's aviation unit," he said.

His retirement was interrupted when he got the call to take the reins and overhaul the air support unit.

"We're at a position right now where we are re-evaluating our staff," Peck explained.

He also wants to concentrate on training.

"We want to refocus on training because that's our number one priority - is safety," Peck said.

Consistent and annual training not only as pilots but as law enforcement officers.

"And then as that moves forward, we'll continue to leverage some technology that's out there and allow us to serve better," he explained.

Ideally, this would mean adding two choppers alongside the one remaining so they can serve not only Omaha but the surrounding communities.

"We want to look at enhancing operation and replacing existing aircraft," Peck said.

As for when a new helicopter will be added to the fleet, that's still working to be determined.

Peck hopes to have three working helicopters on hand so their department can assist, in not only chases but also in finding missing people and during natural disasters like the heartland flooding.