Photo courtesy of American Eurocopter.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department completed a nearly $60-million overhaul of its helicopter fleet in late 2012 that brought 18 new helicopters, including three Eurocopter Super Pumas.
We noted the approval of funds for the new airships in June of 2010, and since that time the agency went even further to develop arguably the nation's premier law enforcement airborne unit with its Air Rescue 5 unit.
The all-Eurocopter fleet includes 15 A350 Astar craft and a trio of AS332L1—the company sells the EC225 civilian version—Super Pumas to replace aging military-surplus helicopters. The department had been using three Sikorsky H-3 Sea King helicopters acquired from the Department of Defense in 1998.
The Super Pumas, which are based in Long Beach, enable the agency to engage in homeland security support, conduct SWAT insertions and extractions, assist in maritime interdiction, transport personnel after natural disasters, and rescue people out at sea. There may not be a mission the unit can't handle.
The agency operates a five-man crew on the Super Pumas that includes two pilots and three SWAT medics who are also certified mountaineers and divers. All of their equipment comes with them.
"It's quite a bit of gear, but we can launch directly from our base and put these people right on the problem through vertical insertion," Deputy Patrick McKernan told Aviation International News.
The Super Pumas give Air Rescue 5 the ability to "fly in nearly all weather conditions," Sheriff Lee Baca told a gathered crowd at the October unveiling.
The Super Pumas provide a significant power and capability increase from the H-3s. The helicopter is about 25% smaller and offers a 30% faster response time. The twin-engine, four-bladed, medium-sized utility helicopter has been produced since 1978.