Trooper 5 — the Maryland-based medical helicopter based in Cumberland — is seeing even less duty than ever.
West Virginia officials have directed rescue squads to Mountain State-based helicopters over the past year even though Trooper 5 is usually closer.
But now pilot shortages are shutting down the service even more frequently even though it cut its hours of operation from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily earlier this year.
The pilot shortage combined with a temporary electrical issue over the last week to reduce the availability of the Maryland State Police medevac helicopter.
That left Trooper 5 out of action on Nov. 29 for an injured hiker and Dec. 1 for the 58-vehicle pileup on I-68 at Big Savage Mountain.
Frederick-based Trooper 3 helicopter answered the call for the injured hunter, performing a hoist rescue before the patient was flown to the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center.
On Dec. 1 the helicopter was out of service, however, due to an electrical issue discovered the day before.
“There is an electrical problem with ability to provide heat to the airspeed indicator,” Rick Bartlett, a veteran Maryland State Police, said.
“In winter time, we are not allowed to fly in less than 39 degrees,” Bartlett said about medevac helicopter weather restrictions.