The Metropolitan Police Department unveiled a big upgrade to its air unit Wednesday — a $9.6 million helicopter that will aid mainly in search-and-rescue missions.
“It is a significant advancement to our current capabilities,” said officer Steve Morris Jr., the chief pilot for Metro’s air support section.
The new Airbus H145 sports two engines, which will let the chopper keep flying if one engine fails. It also has a smaller rotor diameter than the department’s current search-and-rescue fleet, and that lets the helicopter maneuver in tight spaces.
The department’s other search-and-rescue helicopters are from 1973.
The purchase was approved by the department’s Fiscal Affairs Committee, which consists of two county commissioners, two Las Vegas City Council members and one civilian recommended by the sheriff.
Most of the air unit’s rescue missions occur at Red Rock Canyon and Mount Charleston, Morris said. The air unit assists in about 120 rescue missions annually.
Morris said the new helicopter will be in service for at least 25 years.
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The chopper’s tail number honors Officer David VanBuskirk, who fell to his death in 2013 while trying to lift a stranded hiker to a helicopter at Mount Charleston.