Maryland State Police ground helicopters after cracks discovered in paint on tail rotor

Posted at 1:02 PM, Feb 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-02 07:24:38-05

Four of seven Maryland State Police helicopters that actively serve the state have been grounded.

Maryland State Police helicopters were grounded Sunday for inspection after cracks in the paint on the tail rotor were discovered. According to Maryland State Police spokesperson Greg Shipley, the helicopters were grounded out of an abundance of caution so inspectors could check whether the cracks affected the tail rotors.

This is the second time in a month inspectors spotted a crack in the paint on a tail rotor blade.

"Anything that could affect the integrity of that aircraft is a concern of our aviation command and that's why when the first crack in the paint was noted there was a concern and a follow-up with the manufacturer. Then when the second paint crack appeared, again the systemwide inspection was done ," Shipley said.

Medevac operations were not interrupted during this time, and a fourth helicopter is expected to be back later Wednesday evening and a fifth helicopter could be operating Thursday morning.

State police have a longstanding memorandum of understanding with other law enforcement agencies to assist with operations if needed. Since Sunday, U.S. Park Police flew four medevacs for Maryland State Police, and Delaware State Police flew one.

Maryland State Police have 10 helicopters in their fleet. Seven are assigned to sections across the state while three are rotated for inspection and maintenance

Each aircraft has four tail rotor blades. Twelve blades have been sent back to the manufacturer for further inspection.

"We have not verified any cracks in blades at this point, it's been in the paint." said Shipley.

Several years ago, Maryland State Police replaced their fleet with 10 AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters.

There may be a history of tail rotor problems with the AW139. In 2011, the same model helicopter was involved in a fatal crash in Brazil.

Several emergency airworthiness directives were issued after the incident regarding the inspection of tail rotor blades.

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