Friday, June 27, 2014

Slow medevacs transition into Maryland State Police prompts buy offer: Era Helicopters wants to buy fleet, lease it back

BALTIMORE —The 11 News I-Team has learned that the slow transition of new medevacs into the Maryland State Police fleet has prompted an offer to buy them and lease the aircraft back to the state.

The transition of AW 139 custom-built medevacs into the state police aging fleet is so slow, it inspired a rescue offer from competitor Era Helicopters of Lake Charles, Louisiana.

David Oglesbee, vice president of contract leasing for Era, reached out to Anne Arundel County Sen. John Astle to help broker the offer “to actually purchasing the aircraft from the state and leasing those aircraft back for operations by or for the Maryland State Police."

Reached by phone, Oglesbee said the offer stands, but he has not heard back from the senator or any state official.

Only four of the 10 AW 139 helicopters have been put into service.

They are flying out of the Frederick Municipal Airport, the Easton Airport, St. Mary's County Regional Airport and the Salisbury/Wicomico Airport.

Maryland State Police announced Friday that an AW139 Medevac will be put into service in a fifth helicopter base on Saturday. Police officials said nine of the new Medevacs are ready for duty and a 10th one will be delivered next month.

State police told legislators that they expected the transition to take two years and they are still on schedule to complete it within that time frame.

The target retirement date for the Dauphin Fleet is by the end of October this year.

Training has been a challenge for pilots. Some have had to repeat testing and there's been no budget to meet the new two-pilot requirement. The new fiscal year begins next month and the budget authorizes 10 additional pilot positions.

The new helicopters have to undergo more inspections than expected.

An airworthiness directive for example, highlights an issue of cracks in the subfloor of the aircraft -- a condition if not detected, could lead to a loss of control of the helicopter.

Meanwhile, the current aging fleet of Dauphins must be maintained until the transition into the AW 139s is complete and the cost of maintaining a duel fleet is growing.

Since December 2012, the State Board of Public Works has authorized $2.3 million in repairs to as many as five Dauphins. Repairs include engine and main gear box overhauls.

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