The helicopter was purchased in June 2022 and was recently delivered to the MFS Aviation Branch headquarters in the city of Old Town. It replaces an older MFS helicopter which is over 50 years old.
The Aviation Branch fleet currently includes five UH-1H Huey utility helicopters, two Bell 407 helicopters, and three fixed-wing aircraft.
The helicopter will be primarily operated by the MFS Forest Protection Aviation Branch for use in fire detection and firefighting operations, including for water drops, as well as for the transport of firefighting personnel and equipment.
The aircraft will also be used to support other local and state agencies, such as Maine State Police, Game Wardens, Marine Patrol Officers and Baxter State Park Rangers, including for search and rescue missions and the medical evacuation of injured people in remote areas.
Maine is one of the US’s most heavily forested states
“Transitioning the MFS aging air fleet is essential to supporting the ongoing capability of the MFS Forest Protection Aviation Branch,” said Amanda Beal, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. “The Bell 407 provides safety and dependability for our Forest Rangers and our partners at the State Police, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and others who rely on this important resource.”
“Upgrading the Maine Forest Service’s aging helicopter fleet is an investment in the safety of our forests and our people,” added Governor Janet Mills. “Maine is one of the most heavily forested states in the nation, which means that we need to be ready on a dime to protect that resource and to assist in search and rescue efforts to save lives. This new helicopter will help us do just that.”
MFS’s Forest Protection Aviation Branch flies more than 400 missions per year, transporting firefighters and thousands of pounds of supplies, and dropping water on fires. In 2021, it dropped more than 91,000 gallons of water on fire and transported 269 firefighters. The Aviation Branch’s fleet has also conducted 104 aerial inspections of logging sites and participated in 22 interagency searches or manhunts.
Elsewhere, Nebraska-based air ambulance service LifeNet of the Heartland acquired a new Bell 407 GXi helicopter in July 2022.