By Mike Schuh

MIDDLE RIVER, Md.  (WJZ)—Maryland’s Medevac chopper system has been studied and copied the world over. But its backbone — the choppers — is due for replacement.

Mike Schuh reports the first ones flew into town Tuesday.

The current fleet is 20 years old. State-of-the-art upgrades would cost $10 million each, and then in 10 years, they’d be too old to fly.

For $12 million, they got the legislature to agree to buy the actual state-of-the-art.

“Awesome day. Awesome day. Historical day. I don’t think my feet are on the ground right now, flying this down from Philadelphia. I’ve been in this command for 30 years, and this is the most excited I’ve ever been,” said Bill Bernard, director MSP Flight Ops.

These are AW139s. Built in Philadelphia, they are the first two of 10 choppers to be delivered to Martin State Airport.

“It’s so state-of-the-art. I’m so excited about it. I can’t tell you,” Bernard said.

Long term, these should be cheaper than the choppers they replace and safer, too.

In a deadly crash near Washington, D.C. five years ago, a single pilot was disoriented at night in bad weather.  Four were killed.

The new choppers are flown with two pilots.

“This is the seventh helicopter I’ve been certified to fly, and this is hands down the safest helicopter I’ve ever flown,” said Chris Love Joy, MSP aviation deputy director.

To put that statement in perspective, Joy used to pilot Marine One, the presidential helicopter.

The total cost is $121 million for 10 choppers.

“We got a very, very good deal on these helicopters, and there is a great deal of cost savings in these helicopters,” Joy said.

So with the first two here, six should be delivered by the end of the week. And then the intense training begins with the first birds in the air, operational in Frederick, by late spring.

The cost to operate the Medevac service comes from a fee motorists pay when they get their driver’s license.


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