December 3, 2013

Air Methods helicopter faster in medical emergencies

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — 10:04 a.m.

The tone for the Air Methods medical helicopter echoes through the building at the London-Corbin Airport and medical personnel immediately begin gathering their backpacks.

Within six minutes of the call, the Eurocopter EC 135 helicopter has been pushed out of the hangar, the three-member crew has boarded, and the life-saving medical flight machine is lifting into the air.

With the capability of reaching speeds of 150 miles per hour, the newest  addition to the Kentucky One Air Methods flight twin engine helicopter offers faster response time than the other single engine models currently in use.

The new model features IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) which allows it to fly in bad weather when other helicopters could not. In addition, the EC 135 offers a removable seat that will allow for a second passenger if necessary and offers a rear loading system for better loading of the gurney — which is standard on the EC 135.

“We have a gurney already on the helicopter so we can load a patient directly from a bed, a stretcher or the accident scene without having to wait to unload from another gurney,” said Anthony Poland, one of the pilots at the London base.

The auto pilot feature and a stability system to help the aircraft be more stable in turbulent weather is also a plus for the new helicopter.

While the takeoff time is slightly longer for the twin engine model than the single engine helicopters, Poland said the twin engine model offers a faster speed than the one-engine helicopter.

“We can fly 15 to 20 miles an hour faster. A single engine model can actually take off within two minutes, but since this model goes faster, we can catch up with them,” he said.

The speed of the medical helicopter is self-explanatory.

A flight dispatched out at 10:04 a.m. results in arrival of the helicopter to McKee in 12 minutes, with the patient loaded and delivered to a Lexington hospital in approximately 20 minutes. Overall, within 45 minutes, a critical patient has been transported safely for intense medical treatment which could have taken more than two hours otherwise.

Poland is well-versed on the benefits of the medical flight crews and the aircraft that make saving lives even more efficient.

At its London base are four teams who man the facility 365 days a year, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. The crews are comprised of a pilot, a flight nurse and a paramedic who alternate flights and days of work.

Kentucky One Air Methods has 12 bases within the state, all of which are dedicated to “patient first” care. With each flight dispatched out, another base nearest to that one is poised to jump into action if needed. The helicopters fly patients to Lexington, Knoxville, Johnson City, and even as far as Cincinnati. Poland said most flights by Air Methods are kept within 1 to 1 1/2 hours of flight time.

“The addition of the Eurocopter EC 135 further advances Kentucky One Air Methods’ dedication to serving the community in critical situations when time is of the essence,” said Rebecca Webster with Air Flight.

The EC 135 was purchased in August. Models are estimated to cost around $6 million.