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MFD’s new aircraft brings more capacity, firefighting power

Maui Fire Department Assistant Chief of Operations Hanale Lindo conducts Friday morning’s blessing for the Iolani 1 at War Memorial Complex in Wailuku. Among those gathered close to the helicopter are current and retired rescue personnel. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Maui Fire Department is bringing a new helicopter into service that is capable of carrying more passengers and dropping larger loads of water on brush fires.

The department hosted a blessing on Friday morning at the War Memorial Complex along with county and state officials, members of the public and Windward Aviation, which operates and services the aircraft under a contract with the county.

“We are in a different era,” Don Shearer, head of Windward Aviation, said of the helicopter’s added capabilities not only for rescue but for firefighting.

Shearer said that Maui County will be the first in Hawaii to have the capabilities the new aircraft will provide, according to a news release Friday from the department.

The Airbus/Eurocopter BK117-850D2 aircraft named “Iolani” (royal hawk in Hawaiian) is capable of carrying 11 passengers and dropping 300-gallon loads of water on brush fires, an upgrade from previous aircraft that could drop 100 gallons. A heavy-duty winch was recently installed that will allow rescue victims to be brought aboard in the air.

Maui Fire Department Chief Brad Ventura speaks during Friday’s blessing. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Fire Chief Brad Ventura pointed out the added safety element of the twin-engine helicopter and the importance for the safety of both first responders and the public. He also mentioned the hoist capability — the ability to lift victims and rescuers from the ground into the aircraft — and the increased personnel carrying capacity, which will factor into the department’s use of the aircraft.

The helicopter will come into service on July 1, the department said. Pilots and air crews have already been training on the aircraft in preparation.

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