The Maryland State Police Cumberland Aviation Section will celebrate its 40th year of service to the citizens of Western Maryland in 2022. Overall, the Maryland State Police Aviation Command has celebrated 50 years of service to the state of Maryland.
The helicopter section known as Trooper 5 was the fifth aviation base to be placed into service by the Maryland State Police and is one of seven bases operated within the state.
Since being placed into service in 1982, the base has moved into a larger more suitable hangar and was host to three different helicopter platforms. The section, which is based at the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport, serves Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties in Maryland. It is also called upon to assist neighboring counties within Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The Cumberland Aviation Section is staffed and ready for service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The section has a roster of 18 people, which includes civilian pilots, sworn trooper paramedics and aircraft maintenance personnel.
The pilots at Trooper 5 are some of the most skilled and experienced in the business. A few started in the private sector and others were assigned to military units with multiple overseas deployments. One of the pilots previously flew the presidential helicopter known as Marine One and two are currently still serving in the National Guard. The trooper clinicians are sworn state troopers who are nationally certified as paramedics.
Together, they fly the Leonardo AW-139 helicopter, which is configured to serve as a fully functioning advanced life support air ambulance. The advanced skills and training of the aircrew are an asset when dealing with the long distances that Trooper 5 frequently travels due to the unique rural landscape of the area.
Unlike the other helicopter bases, Trooper 5 is the only base stationed outside of Maryland and is the only State Police helicopter that routinely operates over rugged and mountainous terrain.
Because of this, one of the challenges faced by Trooper 5 is operating within the dynamic weather patterns that routinely affect Western Maryland. The local mountain ridges are often impassable by helicopter due to weather systems or clouds.
The local airport, the scene location and the hospital must all be free of low-lying weather or fog in order for a medevac flight to occur. In some instances of poor visibility, the aircraft can take off and land at local airports that support ground-based radar systems that guide the pilots to the ground, referred to as “IFR” flight, or instrument flight rules.
Local EMS providers will sometimes transport patients directly to a local airport during low visibility conditions so the helicopter could land and complete the mission when not able to make a “scene” landing somewhere off site.
The Cumberland Aviation Section flew 144 emergency missions in 2021, to include 110 medevacs, 21 search and rescue and 13 law enforcement missions. This does not include the many training and outreach missions that are routinely conducted
The typical medevac mission is usually for a patient suffering injuries sustained from a vehicle collision or other traumatic-type incident, however the helicopter is routinely called upon to transport patients in rural areas who are suffering medical related incidents, including heart attacks and strokes.
The most appropriate hospital is always chosen based on the patient’s needs. Trooper 5 typically transports patients to UPMC Western Maryland in Cumberland, University of Maryland Shock Trauma in Baltimore, J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia, and Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
During 2021, the section also transported patients to facilities in Pittsburgh, Charlottesville, Virginia, Fairfax, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
The section completed 21 search and rescue missions during 2021. These missions assisted local emergency services personnel with searching for critically missing persons, typically in rural and remote areas.
In January, the crew was called to help a logger suffering traumatic injuries from a falling tree in a densely wooded and remote area. The crew successfully placed the helicopter in a hover 200 feet above the ground and hoisted the patient to safety.
In May, the crew located a missing 2-year-old child who was lost in the woods at night and suffering from hypothermia.
The crew performed the second hoist of 2021 in July when they hovered 285 feet above the fast moving water at Swallow Falls in Garrett County to rescue a person who fell on the rocks and sustained a head injury.
The crew was called upon 13 times to assist local and state law enforcement on various police missions, to include vehicle pursuits and tracking suspects on foot.
In January, the crew located a suspect hiding in the woods at night after a vehicle pursuit. In April, the crew located a suicidal person in a remote area and was able to guide ground resources to the subject. In May, after being called to assist after a homicide, the crew observed several suspects enter a vehicle and flee the area.
Local authorities were successful with conducting a traffic stop and apprehending several suspects when the crew was able to guide them to the moving vehicle. These incidents represent a small percentage of the successful missions completed by Trooper 5 during 2021. The crew of the Cumberland Aviation Section hosted several community based events in 2021 to include an open house in September, a Halloween “Trunk or Treat” in October and multiple outreach events throughout the year.