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Sunday, April 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: San Diego's Copter 1 Goes 24/7


The city of San Diego's fire and rescue helicopter is now in service around the clock. Since Feb. 10, Copter 1, a Bell 212, has been available 24 hr a day, seven days a week. Before then, its operating hours were 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. If an emergency necessitated air support outside those hours, aircrews were called back. Copter covers 331 sq mi, all of the city and county of San Diego.

Three full-time crews man the helicopter: three pilots, three crew chiefs, and three paramedics. All paramedics are trained in advanced life support services. The helicopter is equipped with night-vision goggles.

The cost for the extra hours and use of the helicopter was built into the budget, according to the San Diego Fire and Rescue Dept.

The department purchased the Bell 212 in July 2005 for $4 million. Prior to 2005, the department leased a 212 for $5.5 million. In 2006, Copter 1 responded to 363 incidents during regular working hours, including fires, hoist rescues, and medical emergencies.

The helicopter program’s annual, $2.8-million budget is supported by a combination of funding. A highway call boxes program contributes $250,000. Indian Tribal Grant Money from gaming casinos contributes $170,000. Scripps Memorial Hospital contributes $25,000, and Sunroad Enterprises, which has car dealerships, golf courses, real estate companies, and office buildings, will be contributing $220,000 over a five-year period.

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