Air ambulance back in the air

Service will be running in next 10 days

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— Yampa Valley Air Ambulance should be ready for takeoff within the next 10 days, after nearly two months of suspended service following the crash of its lone plane.

Bob Maddox of Steamboat Springs-based Mountain Flight Services said his company recently purchased a replacement aircraft and is working to complete mechanical inspections and outfit the Beech E-90 "King Air" with medical equipment.

"We hope to be able to have it in service within a week to 10 days," Maddox said.

Getting the medical transport service back in operation as quickly as possible is particularly important now that Yampa Valley Regional Airport is closed until mid-June, Maddox said.

Mountain Flight Services is currently working to ensure the replacement aircraft, which was purchased from an Ohio construction company, meets Federal Aviation Administration standards, Maddox said.

The company also is in the process of converting the passenger interior of the plane into a medical interior.

The 1978-model E-90 replaces the 1977-model E-90 that crashed March 19 just outside of Kremmling. The plane was en route from Grand Junction to the Steamboat Springs Airport when it was diverted to Kremmling Airport to pick up a snowboarder injured at Winter Park Ski Area. The plane slid to a stop in 12 to 18 inches of snow on Junction Butte, a mountain two miles southeast of Kremmling.

The pilot, nurse and paramedic aboard the plane walked away with minor injuries, but the plane was totaled. No patients were aboard the plane at the time of the mishap. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

The crew members have not been identified.

None of the plane's on-board medical equipment was damaged, Maddox said. Because the replacement plane is nearly identical to the previous one, the existing medical equipment will fit the newer E-90, Maddox said.

Yampa Valley Air Ambulance is a cooperative effort between Mountain Flight Services and Yampa Valley Medical Center. Mountain Flight Services leases the plane and staffs a pilot for the service, which is operated by the medical center for emergency patient transports.

Yampa Valley Air Ambulance flew 136 flights in 2002. The service was unable to provide medical flights on at least three instances since the March 19 crash. Other air ambulance services picked up at least three of those flights.

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