A multi-million-dollar helicopter for crimefighting and search-and-rescue work has arrived in King County.
The new Guardian One, a Bell 407 model officially unveiled by the county’s Sheriff Department during a media event recently at Boeing Field in Seattle, has a spotlight, infrared equipment, mapping software, and a downlink so a ground-based command post can see what the pilot sees, officials said.
The airship was built in Canada by Bell Helicopter and outfitted in Tennessee by Edwards and Associates at a combined cost of $3.4 million. It was paid for with federal money from the Department of Homeland Security, which selected King County to deploy the new rig but asked officials to share it regionally with Pierce and Snohomish counties, as well as with the State Patrol.
Guardian One is available at no charge for police work in any of the three counties. In addition, the Sheriff Department has air-support contracts with the Coast Guard (for finding and tracking oil spills), the state Department of Ecology (tracking environmental incidents), and the county’s Department of Natural Resources (finding river hazards).
Officials said the new Guardian One essentially is a replacement of the Sheriff Department’s 1970s-era, military-surplus helicopters, which are becoming increasingly expensive to operate. The new one will be the primary helicopter for police work, while a UH-1N Huey will be used for rescues involving a hoist.
Sheriff Sue Rahr said the new helicopter’s “benefits go beyond the borders of King County. It’s truly a regional asset.”
Representatives of all three counties, including their sheriffs and some King County Council members, attended the helicopter’s rollout in Seattle.