By Reggie Paulk
On a stormy Colorado winter night in the late 1970s, a charter pilot received a call for a flight. Upon arriving at the airport with his copilot, he noticed the mechanic removing seats from the aircraft; he explained that this was an emergency medical flight. Having flown a few of these flights previously, the pilot thought nothing of it and prepared to depart.
The destination airport was located in the middle of nowhere; other than the runway and a small ramp, there were no facilities. After shutting down, the pilots saw the lights of a highway patrol car approaching. As the police car neared, the pilots thought they were going to jump into the cruiser, then go to the hospital to pick up the patient. Instead, the officer went to the back seat of the cruiser, where a grandmother and her grandchild sat, gravely injured from a car accident.
“Here are your patients,” the officer said.
“Where’s the nurse?” asks the pilot.
“There is no nurse,” was the answer.
They placed the woman in the plane and put her on oxygen. The copilot sat in the back with the baby in his arms as the pilot flew, on instruments, through the bad winter weather all the way back to Denver.
After that experience, the pilot decided, “If I have an opportunity to change this and make it better some day, I’m going to do it.”
That pilot was Roy Morgan. In 1980, he began addressing the need for reliable air medical transport by founding Air Methods Corporation.
Fast-forward 27 years: the world of medical transport has evolved from its humble beginnings as a part-time charter operation into a full-fledged industry, and Air Methods has become the largest provider of air medical emergency transport services and systems in the nation.
On Dec. 20, 2007, Air Methods Products Division, in partnership with Omniflight Helicopters, Inc., delivered the most highly advanced medical transport ever to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. On hand at Air Methods’ Centennial Airport headquarters to take delivery of the new aircraft were Aaron Todd, CEO of Air Methods Corporation; Dr. Dan Hankins, medical director for Mayo Emergency Transport; and Anthony Di Nota, president and COO of Omniflight.
During his welcome speech, Todd summed up his thoughts on what he thinks of the new relationship forged between the three entities.
“It’s a real pleasure for me to extend, on behalf of the executive team of Air Methods, our heartfelt gratitude to be partnered with the Mayo Clinic,” he said. “Their requirements for a sophisticated, state-of-the-art solution are going to equal or exceed those of any institution in the country. For them to have selected an Air Methods’ solution is really proof that we are keeping pace and evolving with the sophisticated critical needs of organizations like the Mayo Clinic.”
Traditionally competitors, Air Methods and Omniflight collaborated on this project.
“I want to express my gratitude to the folks at Omniflight,” he said. “It’s interesting when you have two competitors asked to collaborate to ensure that the customer receives everything they’re looking for in a product. It really speaks highly of Omniflight and Air Methods that this project went so smoothly.”
The Eurocopter 145 delivered to Mayo Clinic is equipped to fly at night and on instruments, and is equipped with night vision goggles to enhance flight safety even further. Dr. Hankins spoke enthusiastically about the new capabilities this aircraft will add.
“This helicopter will take the place of one of our in-service BK117s, which is 20 years old,” Hankins said. “The EC 145 has 20-year newer avionics, the stretcher is much sturdier, because we’re seeing sturdier patients, and the cabin is much bigger due to better ergonomics. Because it’s replacing a visual flight rules-only BK, we’ll be able to take missions we couldn’t do before. This ship will be able to take care of all the missions we do, so we’re very excited about it.”
DiNota spoke of Omniflight’s 24-year relationship with Mayo Clinic and his feelings about the new association with Air Methods.
“This is the first time we’ve teamed up with Air Methods,” DiNota said. “Their products division has some really leading-edge ideas and solutions, including very progressive EMS-style interiors on the EC 145. It was a team effort between Air Methods, Mayo and Omniflight to deliver this state-of-the-art aircraft. We’re very honored to continue as the air service provider to Mayo Clinic, and to be able to bring this flying intensive-care unit to the citizens and communities it serves. We’re in a position where we have a better chance of saving people’s lives and putting families back together, and we’re privileged to be involved in something so powerful.”
For more information, visit [http://www.airmethods.com], [http://www.omniflight.com] and [http://www.mayoclinic.com].