Thursday, January 09, 2014

$230,000 information request: Maryland State Police Price Medevac Helicopter Cost/Maintenance Records

Nearly a year after delayed delivery of the $130 million upgrade of the state's medevac helicopter system, some of the new choppers are still not in the air.

The program has seen several setbacks, including damage to the expensive aircraft. In one incident police say a stray bullet may have stranded a chopper on the roof of Shock Trauma.

A shortage of personnel was then made worse by an Federal Aviation Administration requirement that required state police have two pilots in the cockpit at all times.

"We're down 12 pilots currently and we need to have a full complement of pilots," Maj. Loi from the Maryland State Police Aviation Command said.

FOX45 has been following the state's rocky transition to the new AW139 Medevac helicopters for over a year.

An item buried in last month's state spending board agenda raised a red flag an emergency request for half a million dollars to fix one of the state's old medevac helicopters, revealing the strains setbacks are putting on plans to get the new aircraft aloft.

Over the past year state police have filed three separate so-called emergency requests - totaling nearly $2 million - to overhaul the Dauphins.

"I'm perplexed that they're putting money into the Dauphins, the money we're putting in we may not get out, Aviation Consultant Dick Johnson said. The taxpayers again are going to lose money.

FOX45 filed a Public Information Act request to learn more about the spending and to obtain details on just what is behind the delay. The answer to the request was noteworthy, even in a state that earned a 'D' grade for transparency.

State Police priced the information request at $230,000 - to get both the costs and maintenance records of both helicopter fleets. Officials justified the estimate saying the documents would take thousands of hours to produce and copy. State police have yet to respond to a FOX45 offer to narrow the request.

State police say four out of the 10 new choppers are in service.

Story, Video and Comments/Reaction: