The Maryland State Police Aviation Command marked the 50th anniversary of its first civilian medevac mission last week. On March 19, 1970, “Helicopter 108,” a Bell 206 JetRanger, evacuated a motor vehicle crash victim from the Baltimore Beltway. Following medical treatment, the patient survived.
“It took about three weeks before we got our first call because it was all new all over the state,” said the pilot of that flight, retired state police Lt. Col. Gary Moore. The mission marked the first time a civilian agency transported a critically-injured trauma patient from a scene by medevac helicopter.
During the past 50 years, the aviation command has completed more than 180,000 missions and transported some 150,000 patients. It currently operates a fleet of 10 Leonardo AW139 medium twin helicopters that are assigned to seven sections located in Allegany, Frederick, Baltimore, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s, Talbot, and Wicomico counties. The AW139s are flown by a two-pilot crew with two medical providers onboard.
The Maryland State Police began flying helicopters in 1960 with a single Hiller UH12E, but it was not until 1970, encouraged by Dr. R. Adams Cowley, a former U.S. Army surgeon known for being the father of the “Golden Hour” concept in trauma medicine, that the aviation command expanded into true en route care medevac operations onboard its helicopters. Cowley is the founder of what is now known as the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
Since its inception, the command has transitioned from the Bells to Airbus AS365 Dauphins to the current fleet of AW139s. With the larger helicopters, the command’s mission has expanded to include not just 24/7 medevac, but also aerial rescue, homeland security support, search and rescue, and disaster assessment. Over the years, nine members of the command have lost their lives in accidents. The helicopter operations are supported by a state motor vehicle registration surcharge.