22-Nov-2023 Source: HeliHub.com
San Diego County Sheriff Kelly A. Martinez unveiled two new helicopters during a news conference on Monday, November 20 at the Sheriff’s ASTREA (Aerial Support to Law Enforcement Agencies) base at Gillespie Field in El Cajon.
ASTREA is the Sheriff’s aviation unit which has been providing aerial support to the Sheriff’s Department and partner agencies across the county since 1971. ASTREA averages nearly 6,000 missions per year to support patrol, as well as fire and rescue calls throughout the region.
The latest fire helicopter is a Bell 412EPX. It is designed to operate in challenging environments and weather conditions typically encountered during firefighting missions. The County’s collaboration with CAL FIRE will continue with seven firefighters on board the 412 during fire calls – a unified front that is crucial in stopping fires before they become catastrophic. This aircraft is the start of the Sheriff’s plans to replace their three Bell 205s, two of which they acquired in June 2005. It becomes their first night-flying firefighting helicopter.
The newest patrol helicopter is a Bell 407GXi – the fourth 407 in their fleet. It is dedicated to law enforcement operations day or night and has cutting edge flight deck with precision navigation allowing pilots to accurately track and respond to incidents. It is hook-equipped so that a fire-fighting bucket can be added to help with water drops if required.
The helicopters cost $21 million using the department’s budget and Proposition 172 funds. These helicopters empower our first responders to meet the demands of their critical roles. They represent our commitment to your safety and preparedness to handle whatever challenges may come our way.