A small aircraft crashed in the Pecos Wilderness, a mountainous region in New Mexico known for deep and narrow canyons.

New Mexico State Police Aircraft Section flew into action. With its new Airbus H145, the team crisscrossed the wilderness preserve at 13,000 feet elevation. Snow covered the mountaintops, making it difficult to spot the small white airplane.

Just as night approached, the crew located the aircraft and coordinated a high-stakes rescue of the man.

“This was a case of extremely successful teamwork and an impressive aircraft that allows us to execute our missions,” said Lt. Victor Gallegos, of the New Mexico State Police Aircraft Section. “Across the board, the H145 has extended our capabilities and made our agency stronger and safer.”

As one of only three law enforcement departments in the state with an airborne division, New Mexico State Police flies a range of missions, including patrol, surveillance, narcotics interdiction and transportation.

Yet perhaps no mission has benefitted more from the new H145 than search and rescue, which accounts for roughly one-third of the unit’s work.

Placed into service in early 2020, the agency’s H145 is among the most highly equipped law enforcement helicopters in service in North America.

The H145 is equipped with a long list of advanced equipment: an external hoist to aid in high-altitude mountain rescues, a high-intensity, high-power Trakka TLX searchlight, Enhanced Reality System, FLIR Star Safire 380-D imaging system, Health Monitoring System, Night Vision Goggles and state-of-the-art Helionix avionics system.

The aircraft and equipment have given the agency — and state of New Mexico — an elite search and rescue tool that combines power, versatility and excellent hot and high altitude performance. 

“No one expects to need search and rescue assistance, but sometimes the unexpected happens,” Gallegos said. “We are confident that we have the most versatile aircraft with the right technologies that enable us to successfully perform those missions.”

Following the rescue in the Pecos Wilderness, the crew received a request for another high-stakes search, this time at Mount Taylor, a dormant volcano in the Northwest region of the state. A motorcyclist on a daytrip had not returned home, and his friends and family were worried.

Early the next morning, the NMSP helicopter team began searching for the man. Using the aircraft’s cameras, the crew spotted remnants of a small fire the man built to keep warm. Officers found and rescued the man, who had become stranded after his motorcycle got stuck in the mud and had run out of food and water.

Rescues like this might not have previously been possible, Gallegos said.

We are passionate about what we do, and we take our work seriously. Both the H145 and our relationship with Airbus Helicopters have been instrumental in allowing us to protect and serve our communities across New Mexico to the best of our ability.