Posted 10:14 PM 9/10/2012 : DPS Air Rescue Unit celebrates 40 years of saving lives
TUCSON- The Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue unit is celebrating four decades of serving the public. The helicopter unit has been providing 24/7 statewide support response.
It began as a pilot program and joint study between DPS and Arizona State University. It's now an important program to help those who are injured or lost. There are four units assigned in various parts of the state.
News 4 Tucson's Lupita Murillo caught up with the Tucson Ranger crew as they were training with the Pima County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue unit.
Phillip Castellano is an officer and paramedic. "The other day, we actually did a one-skid hover where I got out while the aircraft was hovering over rock and rendered aid to a subject who had fallen while he was climbing," he says.
Today's training is a far cry from the beginnings of the aviation program in 1972, when they flew a Hiller F-H 1100. It was an air ambulance with a stretcher, and oxygen tanks. Officers were also trained on using their long guns from the air. Veteran officer Stuart Anderson says, "We've evolved into newer aircraft, newer technology, the ability to rescue people on ropes, night vision goggles. Specific equipment has helped enhance our job."
While the equipment and technology have changed immensely, the areas they cover haven't. Officer and paramedic Chris Hecht says, "We're still doing the same things in some areas that we were doing 40 years ago and there's still a need out there in the state."
But this job is also very dangerous, pictures of fellow officers who paid the ultimate price line the walls with their memory and their service.
So while the Air Rescue bureau flies well over a 1,000 missions a year, it's always remained true to its original mission: to save lives.
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