Arizona DPS asks for new helicopter for evacuations, search and rescue missions

According the Arizona Troopers Association, it's time for the Dept. of Public Safety to get new helicopters. With budget meetings starting today, troopers are hoping to be granted the funding.

DPS was supposed to receive two new helicopters last year, but it was cut out of the budget due to the pandemic.

Several DPS rescue helicopters are old, outdated and unsafe, according to Arizona Trooper Association president Jeffery Hawkins. Out of the five helicopters in use, only one is up to date.

"The helicopter you see behind me here is 23 years old," Hawkins told FOX 10. "This is commonplace for it here, It’s always being repaired."

The decades-old helicopters make rescues difficult and sometimes impossible.

"This one can’t do a night rescue at night and if they have to bring in a paramedic, they hike in," said Hawkins. "They have to go off and land and wait for the morning to come back. We have a helicopter that was purchased four years ago that can do night rescues."

Slow response times for older, outdated helicopters could mean life or death, according to DPS.

"When we go on a rescue, we have to land, we have to take the doors off - it takes quite a long time," said state trooper Michael Allen. "Then you have to return to the scene, then do the rescue, land again, reconfigure before you can load the patient up and take them.

"With this [newer] aircraft we are running the hoist," Allen explained. "With the hoist, you fly right there go down and get the patient and ride out. We actually did a comparison between the two. The fastest we could do in that [older] aircraft is one hour to get going to the hospital. In this one, we did it in 11 minutes."

If the budget gets approved to add to the department, a new helicopter could be added to the fleet in about a year.

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