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Photo credit to Ian McMurty.

America’s Life Saving Air Companies

Although most commercial airlines run on a schedule, they also aim to arrive slightly earlier then estimated to their destination. However, for medical carriers, time becomes a difference of life or death. They are some of the world’s most important carriers, giving medical care to rural areas and are utilized by hospitals worldwide. While some hospitals own their own helicopters, most outsource their medical aircraft to trained companies such as Air Methods and Air Evac Lifeteam.

Air Methods, the largest medical transport company in the United States, was established in 1980 as a single helicopter operation at a local hospital in Grand Junction. Colorado. Over the years the company expanded, adding new cities and new hosptials as they merged and bought out local companies. Some major acquisitions include San Bernadinos’s Mercy Air Service, St. Louis’s ARCH Air Medical, and Dallas’s Omniflight Helicopter Services.

As of today, Air Methods currently employs about 4,000 people at 300 bases in 48 states. The air carrier is still operating out of its main base in Denver and has their headquarters near Centennial Airport. In nearby Aurora, Colorado, the company opened a 14,000 square foot training facility in 2012 that is equipped with full motion simulators for multiple aircraft, allowing the company to train its own pilots more efficiently and safely.

Air Methods owns or leases most of their aircraft which are then given to hospitals or areas depending on whether they want a hospital-based model or community-based model, which is decided based on the size of the town and location of the hospital. Of the 400 aircraft Air Methods is responsible for, most are Eurocopter EC135s, Eurocopter AS350s and Bell 407s that operate accident to hospital or hospital to hospital transport. The airline also offers fixed wing operation for moving patients from small rural hospitals to larger hospitals for more intensive care. Most of the fixed wing aircraft in Air Method’s fleet are Pilatus PC-12 and are staffed by nurses and Air Method pilots.

The other major medical carrier in the United States is Air Evac Lifeteam. Started in the Missouri Ozarks in 1985, Air Evac made use of being a company that specialized in rural medical transport. Over time the medical company expanded, adding new bases in the southern United States. Nowadays, Air Evac offers 115 bases in 15 states, from as far west as Texas and as far north as West Virginia. The carrier offers the same services as Air Methods, but instead of the mix of helicopters that Air Methods use, Air Evac Lifeteam has a uniform fleet of Bell aircraft with 150 Bell 206 LongRangers and 6 Bell 407s. Air Evac Lifeteam is based in O’Fallon, Missouri and is the largest member of Air Medical Group Holdings which also includes EagleMed and Med-Trans.

As towns continue to grow and expand, companies like Air Method and Air Evac Lifeteam may require faster helicopters or the addition of fixed wing aircraft. However, at the current time, Air Evac Lifeteam and Air Method have saved hundreds of thousands of lives with helicopters and aircraft that give them the title: America’s life saving air companies.

Ian McMurtry
Ian McMurtry
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