Emergency Funding Request Reveals More Trouble With AW-139 Fleet
Updated: Tuesday, November 12 2013, 09:59 AM EST
A request for emergency funding from state police obtained by FOX45 reveals trouble behind the scenes with the plan to replace aging medevac helicopters with new AW-139s.
The memo seeks nearly $1 million to fix an old Dauphin chopper as State Police struggle to maintain the older choppers – even as they try to deploy the new aircraft. Now they may have to increase their staff as a result.
"All of the predictions for more maintenance and costs have all come true," Maryland State Delegate Pat McDonough said.
And the difficulties for state police don't end there.
Recently a stray bullet may have damaged the blade and stranded one of the new AW-139s on the helipad of Maryland shock trauma. Then 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 another emergency request was made – this time for $600,000 to hire new 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.
It's a series of escalating costs that McDonough says may continue to rise.
A decision to purchase 12 of the larger, more technologically advanced helicopters was controversial when it was made in 2008 – and remains so today. The requisition forced the state to borrow $133 million instead of choosing cheaper alternatives such as privatizing the fleet or refurbishing existing helicopters.