Seward has already benefited from the new Alaska State Trooper helicopter, Helo-2, when it rescued a British tourist who had fallen and dislocated her shoulder Sunday afternoon while hiking up the Harding IceField Trail.
The newly purchased American Eurocopter A-Star 340B3e, already becoming informally referred to as “HELO-2,” was received by the Alaska State Troopers in early July from its manufacturer in Texas. It is the trooper’s latest $3.2 million addition to its rescue and enforcement arsenal. It arrived, conveniently, at a time when it was sorely needed. The Anchorage –based Trooper Rescue helicopter HELO-1, another A-Star 130, crashed and burned on March 30th, killing all three people aboard, including its longtime rescue pilot, Mel Nading, a veteran who had rescued more than 70 people last year alone, according to the Alaska Dispatch.
The Helo-2 is not meant as a replacement for the HELO-1 however, said Trooper Spokesperson Megan Peters. It had been ordered prior to the March 30 accident, and is intended to be stationed in Fairbanks, which will occur in February 2014, when the troopers expect to receive a second American Eurocopter. But meanwhile, it will be stationed for a while in the hub city of Anchorage while the troopers await a replacement for HELO-1, she said.
The replacement will be nearly identical to HELO-1, except that it lacks an infrared heat-tracking system, which helps when searching for missing persons. For example HELO-1 assisted last year in the search for Mt. Marathon runner Michael LeMaitre, following his disappearance, and has assisted in Seward-area search and rescues at various other times.
The cruising speed for the Helos is 125 knots and the maximum altitude they can safely fly is 23,000 feet. The Department of Public Safety has hired a full-time civilian pilot to be posted in Anchorage. Two troopers also are trained and qualified to also fly the Eurocopters. DPS has not hired a civilian pilot to be based out of Fairbanks yet, however.
Heidi Zemach for SCN (you can reach author at firstname.lastname@example.org or 224-6473)