The Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s (LASD) Air Rescue 5 program teamed with ground volunteers for a record number of rescues last year.
Air Rescue 5 flies three Airbus Helicopters AS332L1 Super Pumas acquired used in 2011 and operated by the aero bureau of the sheriff’s homeland security division. They replaced three former U.S. Navy Sikorsky H-3 Sea Kings that were becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. Air Rescue 5 began operations in 1955 with a Bell 47 and over the years upgraded with the Sikorsky S-58, S-58T and H-3. Before entering service with the sheriff, the Super Pumas were fitted with external hoists, nose-mounted forward-looking infrared cameras, night-vision compatible cockpits, multi-patient medical interiors and other airframe modifications. In addition to easier maintenance, LASD cited the AS332L1’s superior service ceiling of 20,000 feet, compared with the H-3’s 14,700, as rationale for the acquisition. Los Angeles County has elevations up to 10,068 feet (Mount San Antonio) and temperatures that can often exceed 95 degrees F in summer.
Working with Air Rescue 5 in 2014, volunteer SAR teams responded to 597 missions, up from 491 in 2013. Much of the expanded activity was attributed to the recent flood of videos and images portraying high-risk outdoor adventures on social media. Rescues involved cases involving missing hikers, motorcycle crashes over the sides of highways and cliff rescues. LASD has eight SAR teams scattered throughout the county. They are populated by 170 Reserve Sheriff’s deputies and civilian volunteers who donate their time and are available 24/7. They are mountaineers and trained emergency medical technicians.