This AgustaWestland photo shows an AW139, which has two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67C turbines and a five-bladed main rotor.

Maryland Buying Six New EMS Helicopters

A state board approved a $72.3 million contract Wednesday to add Agusta Aerospace Corp. AW139s to the fleet operated by the Maryland State Police.

Approval of a $72.3 million contract by the Maryland Board of Public Works on Wednesday means six new EMS helicopters will be added to the Maryland State Police Aviation Command, which currently operates 11 Dauphin helicopters throughout the state. The contract includes an option to buy as many as six additional helicopters between July 1, 2011, and July 31, 2013, and a 30-year term in which Agusta Aerospace Corp. of Philadelphia, which won the bid, will supply parts.

The (Baltimore) Sun reported Wednesday that Agusta Aerospace, part of AgustaWestland, was the only company among four helicopter manufacturers that chose to submit a final bid.

Maryland State Police have run EMS aviation in the state for about 40 years. The command says new pilots undergo extensive training on the Dauphin helicopter and must demonstrate continued proficiency through annual written and skills evaluations. Regular training is done on hoist operations, water egress, instrument approaches, and more.

An EMS helicopter from the command crashed Sept. 28, 2008, killing four people on board -- the pilot, a paramedic, an EMT, and one of two traffic accident victims being transported. NTSB has investigated numerous helicopter EMS accidents and posts summaries at this site; a presentation for a September 2009 speech by board member Robert L. Sumwalt called the helicopter EMS industry's accident rate "alarming and unacceptable" and indicates there were 85 accidents with 77 fatalities from 2003 through 2008.

The AW139 is a medium helicopter with two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67C turbines and a five-bladed main rotor. It is sold to the EMS, law enforcement, offshore oil & gas, firefighting, executive transport, and military markets. It has a flat floor and ceiling and a cabin that is 1.42 meters high, allowing medical attendants to easily access transported patients, according to the manufacturer's website.

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