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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rotorcraft Report: Maryland Medevac Wants TAWS

PUBLIC | EMS

Maryland’s new air ambulances will have terrain awareness and warning systems (TAWS), according to Maryland State Police Spokesperson Greg Shipley. (The MSP operates the state’s air ambulance service.) Speaking in an exclusive interview with Rotor & Wing, Shipley said that although the RFP for the new helicopters had not been made public, "I have it on good authority that the terrain awareness system is a required component. We have that system on three of our current helicopters. We did not have it on Trooper 2, the helicopter that crashed [on September 27, 2008]."

Four people died when the Maryland State Police Eurocopter AS365N1 Dauphin "collided with trees and terrain in Walker Mill Regional Park, District Heights, Maryland," said the NTSB’s Specialist’s Factual Report. "The commercial pilot, one flight paramedic, one field provider, and one of two automobile accident patients being transported were killed. The other patient being transported survived the helicopter accident, and was hospitalized with serious injuries." Had Trooper 2 (registration N92MD) been equipped with a TAWS system, the fatal collision―the worst medevac accident in Maryland’s history―might not have occurred.

Under the proposed new helicopter procurement, which was announced by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on January 21, 2009, the MSP would buy up to 12 new multi-mission helicopters. The state police currently fly 11 Dauphins. The oldest five were purchased in 1989.

At press time, the RFP was due for release to potential vendors on January 30, 2009. If all goes to plan, the first new helicopter could be delivered "as early as fiscal 2010," Shipley said. When it comes to overall aircraft capabilities, "We want to see what the market can provide," he added. "We want to see what the options are out there." The state of Maryland’s medevac system and the request to buy new helicopters are currently being reviewed by a state legislative committee, in response to the September 27, 2008 crash.

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