Thursday, April 05, 2012

New CA National Guard Helicopter Will Support Local Authorities: UH-72 Lakota helicopters could be useful in missing-persons searches like the recent one for Elk Grove teen Shabnam Ahmadyar

The California National Guard on Thursday showcased its new UH-72 Lakota helicopter at Mather Airfield, east of Rosemont. 
Credit Cody Kitaura

Credit Cody Kitaura

Credit Cody Kitaura

Credit Cody Kitaura

Authorities across the state have a new, $5.5 million tool at their disposal for search and rescue, anti-drug and other operations: the California National Guard's UH-72 Lakota helicopter, showcased Thursday at Mather Airfield.

"It's almost like going from the stone age to the space age," California National Guard pilot and Stockton Police officer Daniel Lowry said.

Steve Hill, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue Coordinator, said the new helicopter could prove useful in operations like last weekend's hunt for a missing Elk Grove girl, a search that involved both the sheriff's department and California National Guard.

"We're going to be working with these boys, and I wanted to see what their new stuff was," Hill said.

The Guard's eight UH-72 helicopters, manufactured by Eurocopter, will be stationed in Stockton and available for operations around the state. They could be used for medical evacuation, search and rescue, looking for marijuana growers or other operations. Officials touted features like autopilot, infrared cameras that can stream video to a location 30 miles away, a powerful searchlight and other benefits.

"At 6,000 feet [above the ground] we can supposedly read a license plate," California National Guard Capt. John Allen said.

Members of the media, law enforcement officers and representatives from elected officials were taken on a short demonstration flight over Rosemont and the surrounding area.

Representatives from CalFire, the Yolo County Sheriff's Department and other agencies also attended the event. The presentation also featured the California National Guard's final flight of the OH-58 Kiowa, a Vietnam-era helicopter that will be replaced by the UH-72 Lakota. The OH-58 was piloted by Rick Lynn, the California National Guard's only pilot currently on active duty who flew in Vietnam.

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