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Supervisors approve purchase of new ASTREA helicopter


March 05, 2014
The Aerial Support To Regional Enforcement Agencies (ASTREA) unit of the County of San Diego's Sheriff's Department will have a new Bell 407GX helicopter.

A 5-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote Feb. 25 authorized the issuance of a competitive solicitation for a Bell 407GX helicopter along with outfitting with standardized Sheriff's Department equipment. The action also appropriated $4,500,000 for the purchase of the helicopter and approved sole source contracts with Bell Helicopter, subject to successful negotiations and determination of a fair and reasonable price, for parts and maintenance and for pilot and mechanic training.

"It's a good deal," said San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore. "Our fleet is aging. This gives us another medium-range helicopter."

The Sheriff's Department helicopters are utilized for patrols, locating suspects, search and rescue operations, and firefighting. Two Bell 205 helicopters are assigned to the Fire Life Safety program while four MD 500 helicopters and an existing Bell 407 aircraft are assigned to the law enforcement program. The existing Bell 407 helicopter can also support the Fire Life Safety program in the event of a critical incident or during critical weather conditions.

The existing Bell 407 helicopter was obtained after Board of Supervisors approval for a purchase in June 2006. The Bell 407 gave the Sheriff's Department a helicopter with a greater gross weight which accommodated increasing payloads from equipment needs. When the Bell 407 was acquired, ASTREA took two MD 500 helicopters out of service, believing that the new helicopter would reduce down time and that a reduction in the fleet would not impact ASTREA capabilities.

In 2010 ASTREA identified the need for a second Bell 407 helicopter and began setting aside funding for the aircraft. The remaining fleet was aging and more aircraft were being removed from service for maintenance. ASTREA's calls have also increased in recent years, from 1,988 in 2011 to 2,425 in 2013.

The $4.5 million to fund the new helicopter was derived from $2,000,000 obtained from the Sheriff's Department capital project commitment fund, $2,000,000 from the ASTREA trust fund, and $500,000 from the Proposition 172 half-cent sales tax for public safety approved by the state's voters in November 1993.

"The Sheriff's ASTREA unit plays a crucial role in protecting the public, and I am pleased to support the purchase of an additional helicopter to help increase responses to both law enforcement and fire-related emergencies," said Supervisor Bill Horn.

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