Messenger - Vol. 1, No. 2, Page 15
Winter 1992
State trooper flies to rescue
     On any given day, Robert McMahon, Delaware '75, might commute
more than 100 miles in minutes, teach elementary school children or
save a life.
     As a Delaware State Police helicopter pilot based in Georgetown,
Del., McMahon frequently assists in search-and-rescue operations,
transports trauma victims to regional hospitals, flies state officials
to critical appointments and provides support in chasing and
apprehending suspects. Educating the community on the role of the
helicopter in police work is yet another aspect of his job.
     On June 16, 1991, McMahon and paramedic Hal Blades were involved
in a water rescue of a small boy, whose raft had been caught in
currents off the shore of Broadkill Beach, Del., and had drifted into
the Atlantic Ocean.
     While responding to the call, McMahon and Blades discussed
several rescue options, ultimately deciding that Blades would jump
from the helicopter into the water. Blades and the child were quickly
picked up by a Coast Guard vessel.
     Among the dangers the troopers had to consider was the
possibility that the rotor wash would flip the boy and raft, McMahon
explains. Also, the helicopter was not equipped to land on the water,
violating a basic aviation rule that "a pilot must always have a plan
on where to put the aircraft down in an emergency," McMahon says.
     The heroic rescue operation was reenacted for the hit television
show Rescue 911. The show may air this spring.
     Although he entered the University as an economics major, McMahon
says he developed an interest in law and police work through
roundtable discussions with law enforcement professionals in a
criminal justice class. Eventually, he switched his major to criminal
     He served as a student aide for the University's public safety
department, where he became a one-man campus mounted police unit,
using a horse donated to the University.
     McMahon, who served as a Baltimore City police officer before
becoming a Delaware state trooper, says flying is a family affair. His
wife, Theresa Ward McMahon, Delaware '78, is also a pilot.
     -Skip Cook, Delaware '89