Situated in the Caribbean is the 3,500-square-mile island Puerto Rico – home to 3.5 million people. The abundant Latin culture, expansive beaches and luxurious resorts attract numerous visitors each year. To further increase the safety for locals and visitors, the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) created the Puerto Rico Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA) bureau back in 1986. The bureau is made up of several PRPD divisions, including offshore boat teams and divers, search-and-rescue (SAR), special weapons and tactics (SWAT), criminal intelligence, and the Air Services Division (ASD). Since the ASD’s infancy, Bell Helicopter has had the privilege of being one of its main helicopter manufacturers.
In the early years of PRPD’s ASD division, the fleet included a Bell 206L3 and then Bell OH-58C Kiowas from the U.S. Army. As the years went on, the fleet grew to include a several Bell 407s, Bell 412s, Bell OH-58As and most recently Bell 429s. Captain Glenn Gonzalez, San Juan branch director for the ASD spoke with Vertical Magazine about the 2014 purchase of the Bell 429s:
“It was necessary to choose a single manufacturer that would provide both a single-engine helicopter for the main tasks of daily basis air support and then a multi-engine helicopter capable of flight under IFR [instrument flight rules]. Based on our previous experience with Bell helicopters and its incredible performance, we made the decision to continue with the 407 add a medium twin model, the 429.”
The ASD’s Bell 429s and Bell 412s are multi-mission capable with a range of additional mission equipment including, an external hoist for rescues and SWAT deployments. The Bell 407s provide urban police missions and can also conduct fast rope and rappel deployments. Then the Bell OH-58As are for training and also conduct urban police missions like the Bell 407s.
These helicopters provide the ASD the ability to have watchful eyes from the sky and have mission efficiency unfounded in other tactical means. The brave, hard-working ASD team operates out of two bases around the clock, seven days a week providing the increased safety and awareness for all the locals and visiting beachgoers day in and day out.