Pima County Unveils New Helicopter with Search/Rescue Capabilitiesby Pima County News on Sep. 19, 2012, under Pima County, Public safety, Tucson
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS NOTE: The helicopter will take off from Kino Sports Complex following the 10 a.m. press conference. The helicopter will support law enforcement personnel from the bomb squad, SWAT and search-and-rescue functions, who will have their equipment on display at the event.
The American Eurocopter AS350B3e helicopter will be introduced to the community at 10 a.m. at Kino Sports Complex, 2500 East Ajo Way.
The helicopter, which will be used to complete search-and-rescue operations and to help extinguish fires, will be the County’s first rescue-capable helicopter. The County previously had to rely on helicopters from the Department of Public Safety or the military, depending on availability.
The Pima County Sheriff’s Department is the first law enforcement agency in the country to purchase the model for law enforcement uses.
This model of helicopter, typically used for high performance missions in hot conditions and high altitudes, will allow Pima County to more readily respond to threats along the border and will serve as a key asset in rescuing hikers off Mount Lemmon or in rescuing those suffering from heat exposure in the desert.
The new helicopter replaces a different model that crashed in January 2011 northwest of Tucson, killing pilot Loren Leonberger and injuring three others. The cause of the crash has not yet been determined by the National Transportation Safety Board.
No general fund appropriations supported the $3.8 million purchase.
Instead, Pima County used three funding sources: an insurance settlement from the crash, federal grant funding for urban areas with potential terrorism threats and approximately $1 million in racketeering funds.
The new helicopter will complement the other aircraft in the Sheriff Department’s Air Unit.
The department has two planes used for the extradition of prisoners, a single-engine and a twin-engine Cessna.
The department also uses two Vietnam-era, fixed-wing Helio-Courier aircraft that are extremely fuel efficient and can stay in the air flying as slow as 25 miles per hour. This capability provides these aircraft an efficient and practical use in patrol operations.
The helicopter now ensures the department will have a diverse fleet that will allow it to respond to a diverse range of situations.