The new Maryland State Police helicopter unveiled Friday by state officials is now back with the manufacturer in Philadelphia awaiting final Federal Aviation Administration approval, the aviation commander said Tuesday.
The FAA has not approved a couple of the modifications made by the manufacturer AgustaWestland at the stateís request to the helicopterís search light and interior used for medical treatment of patients, said Maj. Mark Gibbons.
FAA approval is expected and the helicopter should be back by the beginning of next year, he said.
Nine helicopters are still in production.
State officials had said at the unveiling that the helicopters would not be deployed for months because even after they are delivered, the pilots will have to undergo additional training on the new aircraft.
The stateís 11 Dauphin helicopters include 10 that are more than 20 years old, Gibbons said. The pilots have a month of flight time on a simulator of the new AW139 helicopters, but they will need additional training on the real chopper, he said.
The timing of the new helicopters at the beginning of the year will be good for training purposes and to get the pilots ready to deploy the new craft because that is a slow period for the aviation division, he said. Helicopter operations generally pick up after Memorial Day when more motorists take to the road, he said.