Cumberland - A LifeFlight helicopter had to make an emergency landing yesterday.
The pilot was forced to land in Cumberland after the aircraft lost oil pressure in one of its two engines. The helicopter was on its way back to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. The aircraft set down in a grass field and it doesn't appear the helicopter had any major damage. There were no patients on board, none of the three crew members were injured and the aircraft sustained no damage. At approximately 5:30pm a LifeFlight pilot alerted the air traffic control tower at Portland International Jetport that the helicopter’s master caution light was activated. He declared an emergency and his intention to land immediately as a precautionary measure. The crew spotted the field in Cumberland and, once they determined it was a safe landing zone, they set the aircraft down uneventfully. “LifeFlight operates twin engine helicopters for just this reason,” explained LifeFlight of Maine Executive Director Thomas Judge. “If the pilot receives a warning that something could be wrong with one engine, he doesn’t continue with forward flight. Instead he looks for the closest spot to safely land the aircraft where it can be inspected and evaluated.” There are many early warning systems on the aircraft LifeFlight operates, developed specifically to give the pilot time to land the helicopter without incident. All of LifeFlight’s pilots and medical crew complete training, which emphasizes how to make careful, thoughtful decisions in situations such as this. The helicopter that made the precautionary landing was a back up aircraft being used temporarily while one of LifeFlight’s primary aircraft is undergoing a major overhaul and upgrade to add the latest in safety avionics. A team of LifeFlight mechanics will make an initial inspection of the aircraft to determine what happened and the safest way totransport it back to a hanger for repair. Additionally, representatives from Era Helicopters, the company that operates LifeFlight’s aviation services and provides its pilots and mechanics, will work with the Federal Aviation Administration to do supplementary inspections of the helicopter and make any necessary adjustments, upgrades or repairs. “LifeFlight of Maine takes safety seriously. It’s always first and foremost in our operations,” added Judge. “Each day people from across Maine entrust us with their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Our simple, yet profound, philosophy is that we must always be worthy of that trust.”