The twin-engine helicopter offers three times more capacity for water and passengers compared with its immediate predecessor. It also features hoisting capabilities, enabling MFD to rescue more people at once – previously, MFD were required to land the helicopter to rescue stranded people.
The aircraft will be operated by Windward Aviation, a Kahului Airport-based charter flight operator, through a contract with the government of Maui County.
The helicopter will be used for a range of emergency situations. In addition to fighting wildfires, the aircraft will also be employed for rescue efforts during flash floods or maritime incidents.
In recent years, MFD has faced a growing number of wildfires. So far this year, MFD has responded to 84 brush fires, compared with 71 by the same time in 2021, and 59 in 2020.
Wildfires are a growing concern across the US, with more local authorities investing in new aircraft and equipment to tackle them. The city of San Diego, California, also recently approved the purchase of a new Bell 412 EPX firefighting helicopter in April 2022, while the state of Florida is currently exploring options to replace its ageing firefighting aircraft fleet.