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Chopper team ready to patrol city's skies

SHANGHAI police put their first helicopter team into the air yesterday during a drill centered around crime and accident scenarios.

The city has received three choppers so far, and another is on order. They'll be used as eyes in the sky during major events such as next year's World Expo, for fire and accident rescues and for deploying officers quickly against criminals and terrorists.

The chopper team now has two light-duty EC135s and one medium-sized EC155, made by Eurocopter Group, a France-based plane maker. The copters can carry two pilots and six to 12 passengers.

The team now has 15 pilots, and its total staff of 50 is expected to double in the near future, police officials said. A fourth helicopter, a light-duty EC120, will arrive from Eurocopter later this year, city police said.

But even those four choppers are not enough to meet the city's full emergency response requirements, officials said.

"What Shanghai needs most is a heavy-duty, professional, multi-task helicopter for fire emergencies," said Guo Yonghua, head of the team. "The city has so many high-rises, which makes rescues highly important."

Even the city's largest copter doesn't have the lift power to carry water tanks and other heavy firefighting equipment, according to Guo.


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