Jan Alderton, Managing Editor
CUMBERLAND — Training of pilots and flight paramedics is moving forward at a methodical pace now that Maryland State Police has begun taking delivery of the new AW139 helicopters that will replace its fleet of medevac helicopters, some of which are 20 years old.
“This will be a slow and deliberate process,” said MSP Public Information Officer Greg Shipley.
“We received six new helicopters last week and training will commence. We have have four more helicopters coming later this year. The plan is to have all of the new aircraft functioning and deployed by the end of the year.”
Shipley said the helicopters will be deployed section by section and the first actual mission by the new state-of-the-art helicopters is projected by late spring or early summer.
“First, we have to get the instructor pilots trained and comfortable. Then we will be moving out into the sections with focused, concentrated training at the sections. The training will be conducted in addition to the operational coverage that we will continue to provide.
“There are a lot of moving parts. For example, we have Honeywell manufacturing personnel coming in for cockpit training that will be carried out over five days. We are going from a cockpit of gauges to a glass cockpit like an array of iPads,” said Shipley.
Maryland State Police Aviation Command, he said, waited a long time to get the upgraded aircraft.
“There is no breakdown in the process. It is moving ahead and may not be moving ahead as some — including some of our own people — would like. We will provide extensive training and as much training as needed to make ready to operate these aircraft. To do anything less would be irresponsible,” said Shipley.
The new AW139s feature the most spacious cabin available on the market with a custom-designed medevac interior. The AW139 cabin is 57 percent larger than the one in the Dauphine helicopters they are replacing, according to AgustaWestland, manufacturer of the aircrafts.
The AW139 is successfully performing multimission roles throughout North America for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Los Angeles Fire Department, New Jersey State Police and other major aero-medical and search and rescue operations in North America, according to AgustaWestland.