The MD902 Explorer is becoming one of the helicopters of choice for both police and air ambulance roles in the UK, according to Capt. Tony Cowan, air support unit executive officer with Cambridgeshire Constabulary.
The orgnisation has just brought a new MD902 into operation to replace a 15-year-old Twin Squirrel.
Cowan says: "The new MD902 Explorer for Cambridgeshire Constabulary is a true multi-role aircraft. Its primary role is air observation and search missions for the police. However, it can and has been quickly re-roled as an air ambulance."
He adds: "Yes, the MD902 is becoming the aircraft of choice for both the police and air ambulance roles. The fact is that it's a very versatile aircraft that can be quickly re-roled from police helicopter, to air ambulance, to people carrier, to freighter. It can also be used as a flying classroom both for pilots and observers and, because of its seating capacity it may used as an airborne command and control post by senior officers.
"A particular advantage over other aircraft of the same class is the ease of access to the rear cabin; an important feature when loading stretchers, or moving freight."
The MD902 has seats for eight including the pilot, and the rear cabin can be quickly cleared of seats and role equipment to carry emergency supplies such as food and water.
Cowan adds: "With the 'long tail' option the maximum take-off weight is 6,500lbs, so with the pilot and 500lbs of fuel the aircraft can carry a useful 1,300lbs of freight."
The MD902 is normally crewed by the pilot - all are ex-military - and two police observers. However, in
the event of a medical emergency the crew is joined by a doctor and a paramedic.
Cowan says: "This is a fantastic aircraft with many options for the owner/operator. The aircraft is complemented by the powerful Wescam MX-15 camera and the Skyforce mapping system. Later this year the crew will be equipped with night vision goggles to give them a full range of night vision systems."
Cowan added: "Whilst I'm aware that some operators have had a problem with despatch rates my understanding is that MDHI have now moved forward from the problems they had in the past. As a new operator it's too early for us to form an informed view from our own experience.
"Nevertheless, we are delighted with the new aircraft and its potential to be re-roled for several different missions. We are also encouraged by the fact that the MD902 was short-listed by the US Army for their requirement for a light utility helicopter. I have no doubt that if the MD902 wins this competition the US Army will share my enthusiasm for what is proving to be a multi-role aircraft."