Multi-Role Model: Miami-Dade’s Leonardo AW139s

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In 2019, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (MDFR) signed a contract with Leonardo Helicopters for a fleet of four AW139s to support a multitude of missions, including emergency medical services (EMS), firefighting, search-and-rescue (SAR), law enforcement and disaster relief. MDFR serves Miami-Dade County, and provides mutual aid to five surrounding counties, covering a vast territory of land and sea. To date, MDFR has received three of its four aircraft, with the final delivery anticipated in March of this year from Leonardo’s Part 21 production line in Pennsylvania.

But, Leonardo’s support of MDFR goes far beyond delivery of the aircraft. The new partnership includes a comprehensive five-year support package that includes maintenance and training. In short, since day one of delivery, Leonardo personnel have been on site working with MDFR to ensure an immediately successful transition. Having a mix of Leonardo pilots and technicians onsite working side by side with their MDFR counterparts has helped in the management of change from their legacy fleet to the new AW139s, all while allowing MDFR to remain in service in their community. This robust training and transition plan has ensured a safe transition environment, with every MDFR pilot, technician and flight medic getting hands-on training prior to entering service or working on the aircraft.

Why is the AW139 uniquely suited to serve MDFR? Consider that Miami-Dade is the most populous county in Florida, located along the southeast tip, with a surface area exceeding 2,000 square miles. Even more challenging, one-third of the county is comprised of the Everglades National Park, a unique and sparsely populated terrain. In addition, the AW139s will also be more easily deployed in a mutual support role to areas as far south as Key West, as well as for neighboring agencies in the counties of Collier, Broward and Lee.

The AW139 is a versatile, flexible and nimble aircraft that provides true multi-role capabilities for an agency like MDFR. The AW139 airframe provides speed, agility, safety and range. The AW139 is large enough to provide comfortable patient care and small enough to operate comfortably in a wide spectrum that covers anything from on-scene work to offshore search-and-rescue, all while being able to operate from most roof-top helipads.

The fleet built for MDFR capitalizes on these advantages and is customized to meet the specific and diverse challenges of their coverage area. The aircraft can quickly reconfigure its cabin interior based on the many needs of MDFR’s multi-role mission. Whether it be a search-and-rescue in Biscayne Bay, a post-hurricane reconnaissance or flight, an EMS call in the Everglades, a firefighting mission threating the western farmlands and homes, or a mass casualty incident, the aircraft can be in the required configuration within minutes.

The MDFR aircraft are equipped with an Aerolite EMS interior, a Trakkabeam A800 searchlight for night illumination and a FLIR 380HDc. The MDFR aircraft are also equipped with the industry leading 60-minute run dry main gear box for added safety over water and densely populated areas. 

The South Base location of MDFR went active on Feb. 22. Its first EMS task was a motor vehicle accident in the south end of the county which required two patients be transported. One of the pilots on that flight was Leonardo’s Jason Court, who is serving as an integral part of the MDFR training and transition team.

“MDFR’s first rescue mission was an amazing experience and I’m proud to say I was part of the crew,” said Court. “We were able to get the aircraft started and airborne in five and half minutes, which is pretty remarkable for a crew so new to a machine. The rescue was tight — a two-lane highway with 60-foot power lines on one side and 80-foot pine trees on the other. All told, the rescue took 27 minutes, versus the 45 minutes the crew told me it would’ve taken in their previous aircraft. The AW139 was the star of the show, it’s definitely capable and its speed puts it ahead of the competition.” 

In its very first flight, the AW139 has already made a notable difference in how quickly MDFR can serve the citizens of Miami-Dade County. 

The MDFR AW139s are proudly made in America; part of the most successful helicopter program of the last 17 years, with almost 1,200 orders in more than 70 countries on all continents, and over three million flight hours logged since first delivery. With a dual-use design, the AW139 is utilized by both commercial and military operators worldwide. It is capable of a max takeoff of seven tonnes and can fly in all weather conditions due to optional advanced protections against icing.

Other emergency service customers in the United States include the Maryland State Police, New Jersey State Police and the Los Angeles Fire Department. In 2018, the U.S. Air Force chose the Boeing MH-139 Grey Wolf, a variant of the AW139, to replace its fleet of UH-1N Hueys.

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