Ventura County, California, has approved the purchase of a new US$14.5 million Bell 412EPX helicopter for use in search and rescue and law enforcement operations in the region.
The decision was passed unanimously by the county’s Board of Supervisors. The aircraft will be used to replace one of Ventura County Air Unit’s ageing 1969 single-engine Bell UH-1 Iroquois ‘Huey’ and is scheduled to arrive in October 2022.
The twin-engine 412EPX can carry up to 5,670kg, and has capacity for 14 passengers, and was reportedly selected due to its similar dimensions and weight compared with the old one, enabling pilots to continue using existing remote landing areas and rescue procedures with few adjustments.
In addition, the selection of Bell for the new aircraft will enable the air unit to reuse leftover parts and equipment from the Huey worth approximately US$2 million.
The new aircraft is expected to provide significant improvements to operational performance, safety and offer lower maintenance costs, as well as offering a range of modern enhancements for search and rescue operations.
Ventura County also acquired two Sikorsky Firehawks for firefighting last year
Ventura County air unit carried out 502 rescue and medical evacuation missions over the past two years.
Funds for the aircraft will be provided through $9.5 million from general fund reserves, alongside and $5 million from Proposition 172 public safety funds, a half-cent state sales tax approved by voters in 1993. Air Unit personnel also plan to sell one of the Hueys once the new aircraft is in service.
It follows the acquisition of two reconfigured Sikorsky UH-60L Firehawks for firefighting purposes by the county last year. While the Firehawks will serve as the primary firefighting aircraft for the county, the new 412EPX will also be able to provide support, with the ability to carry up to 1,420 liters of water.