by Timothy Rutt
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department unveiled its three new Air 5 rescue helicopters Wednesday in a press conference in Long Beach.
The newly-acquired Europter AS 332L1 Super Pumas replace the aging Sikorsky SH-3H Sea Kings that are a familiar sight in Altadena skies duirng the height of summer.
The sheriff's helicopter rescue unit started in 1955 with a Bell 47. The Sea Kings were acquired in 1998. The increasing cost of parts and support for those choppers made the sheriff's department look at replacing them with something newer.
The Super Pumas are used, but will provide increased capabilities over the Sea Kings, according to a department release. The new copters will be equipped with external hoists, nose-mounted infrared cameras, night-vision compatible cockpits, multi-patient m edical interiors, as well as other airframe modifications.
The release said that, "Additionally, the Super Pumas will be equipped with an advanced avionics cockpit. These enhancements include Global Positioning System / Wide Area Augmentation System (GPS/WAAS) navigation capability, instrument flight rules (IFR) capability, and weather RADAR. LASD Super Pumas and flight crews will be capable of flight in nearly all weather conditions, enabling a trauma patient on board to reach a hospital emergency room when all other less capably equipped helicopters will be stuck on the ground.
"For enhanced safety, LASD Super Pumas will be equipped with Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System / Terrain Awareness and Warning System (EGPWS/TAWS), and a program Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program. These enhancements bring the Super Pumas and the Air Rescue-5 program in alignment with some of the highest industry standards for flight safety and operational capability.
"Although primarily tasked as rescue aircraft, other missions expected of the Super Pumas will include SWAT insertions and extractions, homeland security support, maritime interdiction and personnel transport after natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, and fires. Other missions may include over-water rescues and transports to the Catalina and San Clemente islands, which lie within the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County."
The sheriff's department said that the Super Pumas are about 25% smaller than the Sea Kings, but can carry the same number of people and is more powerful and faster, figuring that it will lead to a 30% faster response time, as well as all-weather capability.