The Aviation Bureau of AZDPS was established in 1962 with a fleet of small airplanes. Helicopters were added in 1969 under what was called the Arizona Medical Evacuation System (AMES) project. The AMES project was a medically based programme for the helicopters and was a joint venture with the AZDPS and Arizona State University. Out of that study / test programme was born the AZDPS Air Rescue section as we know it today. From its roots, the programme provided medical, law enforcement and SAR services state-wide.
Our AZDPS Aviation Bureau goals are simple: zero aviation incidents, while being a national role model to state aviation departments.
- 4 x Bell 407 helicopters
- 1 x Bell 429 helicopter
- 1 x King Air 250
- 1 x King Air 200
- 3 x King Air 350
- 2 x Sikorsky / PZL M-28 Sky Truck
- 1 x Turbo Commander
- 1x Cessna 182
The Bell 407s are all upgraded with the Rolls Royce VIP enhanced power kits to assist with the hot and high demographic of Arizona. They are additionally modified for night vision goggle flights and equipped with Night Sun, cargo hook, rappel points, and standard medical configuration. The aircraft have Technosonic and Garmin radio packages allowing communication on six different bands, so as to communicate with a wide variety of customers and their various radio means. Three of the aircraft are equipped with FLIR capability.
Each helicopter base is equipped with complete external load support equipment to include plasma and steel external load lines, remote hooks, cargo nets, bambi buckets, live load short haul and rappel lines, etc.
An active helicopter expansion / replacement programme is ongoing with the Bell 429. At the time of writing there is one in service, equipped with an MX-10 camera and Goodrich hoist system.
One King Air 350 was recently modified to enable an MX-15 camera system and a satellite uplink technology
The King Air 200, 250 and Turbo Commander are primarily passenger transport aircraft. The two Sky Truck aircraft are utilised for passenger and cargo.
One King Air 350 was recently modified to enable an MX-15 camera system and a satellite uplink technology.
The AZDPS Aviation Bureau provides a helicopter air rescue response capability for critical occurrences and emergency situations across the state. From four regionally based locations, the helicopters provide law enforcement aerial surveillance utilising FLIR, NVG and Night Sun technology. SAR operations are conducted providing helicopter technical rescue services to include hoist, short-haul, aerial rappel, toe-in / one-skid landings and confined area operations.
Medical evacuations are conducted as part of mass-casualty scenes or in situations where traditional services are unavailable. A wide variety of logistical support includes the transport of vital materials, first strike wildland firefighting, aerial photography of critical incidents and other public safety related support. These flights are conducted in support of not just DPS operations, but other public safety agencies across the state. The resources are routinely provided to police departments, fire departments and county sheriffs in every county of the state.
The AZDPS helicopters cover a response area of 113,998 square miles, with a population base of nearly seven million people. The population masses in Arizona are concentrated and much of the state is open and rugged terrain like so much of the western US. Although many associate Arizona with ‘desert climate’, more than one-third of the state is mountainous terrain with elevations ranging to 12,633 ft. Even the Arizona deserts encompass a wide topography and climate, with some areas soaring to over 120°F during the summer months. Because of this, helicopter ‘hot and high’ performance is a necessity in Arizona.
The AZDPS Aviation Bureau additionally utilises fixed-wing aircraft to transport public safety personnel and equipment across the state and region, greatly enhancing public safety during critical occurrences. These same aircraft provide aviation services to the executive levels of the state from elected officials to state agency heads.
In 2015 and by order of the Arizona Governor, AZ Department of Transportation aviation services were consolidated under the AZDPS Aviation Bureau umbrella. As a result, the consolidation has created greater operational efficiency, safety standardisation and taxpayer value.
Secret to success
Our success is down to our personnel, bar none. Any organisation is only as good as the people that run it, from admin, to technician support to operations. We are obviously very biased, but we have some of the best that the industry has to offer and are credited for our long-running success. AZDPS is a unique law enforcement provider in that we hire our technicians and crew members from the aviation industry workplace. We have been very fortunate in that we have been able to attract and maintain highly experienced air rescue crews. For example, our typical helicopter pilot is hired by us with an average of over 4,000 flight hours and 12 years’ industry experience. AZDPS has a retention rate that averages 24 years.
We emphasise a strong training programme that far and away exceeds any regulatory standards. We are strong believers in safety through training, to include scenario-based training. High experience and strong training allow us to enable a strong employee empowerment culture. Our crews are enabled and entrusted to make critical flight decisions on a regular basis.
Whether five days or five years, we plan to continue to strive for higher excellence in every area of the operation. We plan to continue a safety-first culture by action and not just words – there is a difference! We plan to continue our helicopter fleet replacement programme so as to enhance measurable safety margins that are available through technology.