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On March 19, 1970, the MSP completed its first HEMS mission, becoming the first civilian agency to transport a critically-injured trauma patient by helicopter in the U.S.

The driving force behind this expansion into HEMS was R Adams Cowley, MD. Cowley, founder of the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Md., believed HEMS transportation of critically-injured patients would save lives. Today, the MSP and MSPAC maintain a worldwide reputation as the leaders in trauma care.

MSPAC is the only flight program that performs five separate mission profiles using the same aircraft and crew: HEMS; aerial law enforcement; search and rescue; homeland security; and disaster assessment. What began with one helicopter to cover the entire state now includes seven helicopter bases, maintenance operations, support operations and administration services.

The helicopter, known as the AW139, has distinct differences over the Dauphin. It's larger, can transport two patients and will operate under FAA Part 135 standards in 2015, which means the helicopter is operated with two pilots to increase safety of operation. The aircraft is staffed by a total of four team members: a pilot-in-command (PIC) , a second-in-command (SIC) pilot, a paramedic crew chief and a rescue technician.

Other safety features include doors that allow patients to be loaded into the aircraft with a special mechanism, as well as having two medics able to work side by side. There's also a turntable that pivots, enabling better patient handling. The capacity for medical equipment is greater, and a custom Aerolite medical interior—consisting of a modular medical floor with overboard drains, two multifunction displays, a warmer for IV fluids and suction units—was installed.

Each of the seven MSP bases are also in the process of instructing ground EMS and fire department personnel. Today, all bases are capable of performing any of the MSPAC's various mission profiles.The MSPAC has been proactive in the design of these new helicopters. The operations, training and safety for pilots and flight paramedics were paramount with the acquisition of the AW139 helicopters. These aircraft will allow the MSPAC to provide top-of-the-line patient care for all residents of Maryland.