Maui County has upgraded its rescue and firefighting capabilities with the arrival of a new $2.5 million helicopter with enhanced safety and hoisting features.
The Eurocopter BK117-850G2 aircraft, named “Iolani,” or royal hawk in Hawaiian, was blessed last week in a ceremony hosted by Fire Chief Bradford Ventura. Among those in attendance were Mayor Michael Victorino, County Council member Mike Molina and representatives from Windward Aviation, MFD, the Maui Police Department, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the county Fire Commission. The blessing was conducted by MFD Assistant Chief of Operations Hanale Lindo.
MFD helicopter services are contracted out on an annual basis to Windward Aviation, the actual owner of the new aircraft. Pilots and air crews have already been training on the new helicopter, which will go into service July 1, according to Maui Fire Services Chief Rylan Yatsushiro.
The Eurocopter can carry 11 passengers, up from the four-person capacity of the current helicopters in use by MFD. It also has an increased hoist capability for lifting victims and rescuers from the ground into the aircraft, and can haul 300 gallons of water per drop for fires, an increase the current 100-gallon limit, Yatsushiro said.
But he said the main feature is the additional safety provided by a second engine that enables the helicopter to transfer from running twin engines to a single engine and still fly. Don Shearer, head of Windward Aviation, said in a news release that Maui County is the first in Hawaii to have the capabilities provided by the new aircraft.
The new helicopter will be used for rescue and wildfire operations as well as transporting personnel to remote locations on Maui, Molokai, and Lanai as needed.