Maryland to buy 6 medevac helicopters, board approves $72M to upgrade aging chopper fleet.

Maryland officials unanimously approved a $72 million contract yesterday for…

Maryland officials unanimously approved a $72 million contract yesterday for six new state police helicopters to ferry the injured and sick to the state’s shock trauma hospitals.

The contract, approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works, includes an option for six more of the state-of-the-art helicopters, which are geared to meet new operation and care standards for the state’s nationally recognized critical care transport-and-treatment program.

The new choppers will upgrade the state’s aging fleet. Maryland currently uses 11 helicopters purchased between 1989 and 1999; eight are more than 20 years old.

Though the vote was unanimous, Gov. Martin O’Malley – who serves on the board with Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot – noted that this has been one of the most scrutinized contracts of his term. The governor described it as a “heartfelt” project.

“Leadership is about … protecting our priorities and investing accordingly,” he said.

Doubts about the mission and cost of the helicopters have been raised in recent years by some legislators, including state Sen. John Astle, D-Annapolis, a former helicopter pilot. In 2009, Astle proposed legislation to solicit bids from private companies to operate the service rather than having it manned by state police.

Source: By E.B. Furgurson III for

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