California – Enloe Flightcare ready to launch EC130T2

California – Enloe Flightcare ready to launch EC130T2

7-Jan-2015 Source: Enloe

Enloe FlightCare will begin its 30th year of air ambulance service with a new helicopter: a single-engine EC130 T2 EcoStar, featuring the latest in aviation safety technology, new medical equipment, a roomy cabin and a quieter sound signature. The program will be the first in the world to use the EC130 T2 EcoStar for Emergency Medical Services. The aircraft comes thanks to generous fundraising efforts by many individuals and organizations throughout FlightCare’s area of service.

Enloe Medical Center will unveil the new EcoStar helicopter to the community on Jan. 10 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the newly relocated Chico Air Museum, 165 Ryan Ave., in Chico. The helicopter is expected to be certified and mission ready in early February, following a month of pilot flight training and medical crew orientation as well as certification and approval by the Federal Aviation Administration. See a fact sheet on the new helicopter.

“Our patients and our air ambulance crews deserve the safest, most accommodating transportation available, and I am very proud to say that this state-of-the-art helicopter is the best available to our program,” said Mike Wiltermood, CEO of Enloe Medical Center. “A lot of research and effort went into making this possible. We are so glad it’s finally here!”

Advance features: Safety, comfort, quiet
Enloe selected the EcoStar primarily for its advanced safety features. Its space, comfort and low sound signature were also important contributing factors. The safety features include an enclosed tail rotor that reduces the possibility of inadvertent contact by ground personnel or others on scene. When rotating, a traditional tail rotor can be virtually invisible. The new rotor’s design also helps avoid damage that could compromise flight safety. The rotor together with the helicopter’s computer control system also creates a quieter aircraft inside and out.

In other safety upgrades, many of the flight instruments have been replaced with all-in-one digital technology. These include synthetic vision technology, on-screen satellite weather, GPS and real-time digital tracking of the helicopter for dispatch, night-vision, and traffic and terrain alert systems. Additionally, the engine is controlled electronically and digitally by a computer. Many of these features are particularly important for the altitude and terrain of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the weather throughout the Central Valley.

Other safety features include landing gear that prevents ground resonance, a dangerous occurrence; and energy absorbing seats for all crew and passengers. Several of the aircraft’s systems are redundant, which can help prevent a system failure from leading to a potentially critical situation.

An additional 19 percent of space in the cabin provides more room for patients, in particular larger and taller patients. This added space and a swiveling gurney enable the crew to better access patients and provide them with life-saving care. An intercom system built into the aircraft will allow flight crew to clearly listen to blood pressure and heart and lung sounds – typically a challenge to hear in a helicopter.

Marty Marshall, Director of  Enloe Emergency Services and FlightCare, and pilot with the program since 1985, recognizes an incredible evolution of technology in air ambulance service: “In the early 1980s, the air medical industry was in its infancy,and providers tended to cobble together the medical equipment and loading systems needed to care for patients during helicopter transport. Our new EcoStar is the culmination of 30 years of trial and error knowledge of what works, what doesn’t, and what elements are most importantfor patient comfort as well as mission safety. FlightCare’s EcoStar helicopter was essentially designed from the ground up to incorporate the latest aviation and air medical technology to create a near perfect platform for our operating environment.”

Fundraising campaign supports purchase
Enloe purchased the EcoStar for $3.5 million, including customized air-ambulance design, equipment, delivery and training. This will be covered through Enloe Foundation funds, the future sale of the AS-350 FlightCare helicopter and a successful $1.193-million community fundraising. It is anticipated that no hospital operating funds will be needed for this purchase.

The community fundraising campaign was accomplished with the help of an all-volunteer committee led by Foundation Board Members Scott Chalmers and Mark Kimmelshue. The committee worked diligently for over 18 months to share the excitement of this important program enhancement throughout Enloe’s service region. The response was extraordinary, with financial gifts received from more than 1,900 households and businesses, including public service agencies and several other hospitals.

“The fundraising was truly a regional effort,” Wiltermood said. “We received support from areas as far south as Colusa, as far north as Red Bluff, all the way over to Stonyford to the west and Quincy, Greenville and Chester on the east. We are extremely grateful to these communities and the many donors in Butte County. We can’t say enough about the Take Flight Committee and the leadership of our co-chairs, Mark Kimmelshue and Scott Chalmers, in meeting our fundraising goals and making this possible.”

FlightCare’s previous helicopter – the second in the life of the program – had neared a milestone date in its operational life that would have required a complete tear-down, inspection and possible upgrades. This would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and taken the aircraft out of service for many weeks.

After approval by the Enloe Board of Trustees in 2012, a new helicopter was ordered and the Enloe Foundation launched a campaign in 2013 to help fund the new helicopter.

Pioneering history

The Enloe FlightCare program has pioneered several times since it was founded 30 years ago.

  • In 1985 it became the first air ambulance program north of Sacramento.
  • In 1989 Enloe FlightCare was issued its own air carrier operating certificate by the FAA. Today, Enloe FlightCare is the only hospital-owned and operated air medical service in the state.
  • In 1995, FlightCare was one of the first two air medical helicopter programs to launch a membership program, saving members out-of-pocket transportation cost for reasonable and medically appropriate use of the air ambulance.
  • In 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration certified FlightCare in use of night vision goggles, one of the first three air medical programs in the country to receive this certification. It became one of the first programs nationwide to use night-vision goggles.
  • In 2004, Enloe FlightCare presented on night-vision goggles at a national conference in Cincinnati;  the number of programs dedicated to this safety measure immediately doubled
  • FlightCare has been accredited by CAMTS (Commission on Accreditation of Air Medical Transport Systems) since 2008.

FlightCare grew out of need to rapidly transport patients from growing mountain communities to its base hospital, Enloe Medical Center, a regional Level II Trauma Center. It has transported more than 17,000 patients and responds to an average of three calls per day within a 75-mile radius of Enloe in counties including Butte, Tehama, Glenn, Plumas, Colusa, Sierra, Yuba and parts of Lassen. FlightCare also regularly flies patients to the Sacramento and San Francisco Bay Area. The crew consists of five pilots, three mechanics, four paramedics and eight nurses. Flight nurses work in the Emergency Department when not on a mission.

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