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Price Tag To Transition To New Medevac Helicopters Continues To Grow
Updated: Monday, December 9 2013, 05:55 PM EST
On Wednesday Maryland State Police won approval of an emergency request for money to keep aging medevacs flying, despite a brand-new fleet of AW-139s.
The State Board of Public Works approved roughly $500,000 to overhaul the engine of an older Dauphin Medevac helicopter which has been in service since 1990. This is the third time this year that State Police have sought emergency funds to keep older choppers in service.
State taxpayers paid roughly $130 million dollars to purchase ten new AW-139s - helicopters that preliminary plans indicated would be in service this year. However, several accidents and an unanticipated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruling have delayed the rollout.
One of the new AW-139s may have been damaged by a stray bullet on one if its rotor blades. Another AW-139 was waylaid when a technician broke a blade while trying to balance the rotor. In late September one of the state medevac helicopters hit the tarmac without its landing gear deployed.
In September the state approved $600,000 to fund the hiring of ten additional pilots to fly the AW-139s after the state lost a behind-the-scenes battle with the FAA to fly with just one per aircraft.
The decision to purchase 12 of the larger, more technologically advanced helicopters was controversial when it was made in 2008. The requisition forced the state to borrow $133 million instead of choosing cheaper alternatives such as privatizing the fleet or refurbishing existing helicopters.