The story of Henry 1, our North Bay regional rescue helicopter, begins over four decades ago, in the late 1960s, when Sgt. Ed Wilkinson started flying patrols with his personal helicopter for the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office. That helicopter was soon replaced by Angel 1, the first county-owned helicopter. After Angel 1 crashed while returning from a search for a lost child, killing Sgt. Wilkinson, thousands of Sonoma County residents signed petitions in 1977 urging that the Sheriff's helicopter program be continued. Angel 2, with medical transport added to its duties and also flown by deputy pilots, served until a fatal crash in 1980.
In 1981 the first Henry 1 began service, now flown by a professional pilot, with a deputy /EMT as the Technical Flight Officer. Over time a paramedic has joined the flight crew. The current Henry 1, a Bell 407, has been leased or owned by Sonoma County since 2001.
In 1981 the county purchased a factory new McDonald Douglas 500D helicopter which was put into service as, "Henry-1”, the name still used today. Henry stands for the letter, "H” in the police phonetic alphabet. This helicopter was troubled with numerous mechanical problems including five emergency landings due to engine failure. The final emergency landing in the summer of 1982 left the helicopter severely damaged on tidal rocks North of Jenner.
Over the years the responsibilities and capabilities of the Henry 1 flight crew have been expanded beyond the original patrol activities, to performing law enforcement, medical, search and rescue and fire suppression missions. Henry 1 has performed its distinctive vertical reference long line rescues, typically on coastal rocks, surf and cliffs or rugged wilderness in Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties and has participated in daylight and night searches throughout the North Bay and surrounding counties.