Flight for Life Colorado has added a Learjet to the aircraft operated by Mayo Aviation that are available to transport medical patients from Northwest Colorado to larger hospitals. Its primary mission is flight greater than 400 miles from Centennial Airport. It will come to Yampa Valley Regional Airport and Craig-Moffat Airport most often when it is the second fixed wing aircraft called out. It will not fly into Bob Adams Field in Steamboat Springs.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
People who spy a brightly painted jet on the tarmac at Craig-Moffat Airport in Craig or Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden might wonder about the wealthy person with flamboyant taste who painted a private aircraft the color of a tangerine.
But what they are seeing is the Learjet 35 that was just added to the fleet of Flight for Life Colorado in mid-January.
The orange jet with its yellow stripe matches the color scheme on the turboprop airplane and helicopters that already fly into the Yampa Valley as part of the Flight for Life air ambulance service.
Flight for Life Colorado Director Kathy Mayer said the Cessna King Air 200 turboprop airplane operated by Mayo Aviation in Englewood would remain her agency’s primary fixed-wing aircraft. But the Learjet was added to provide better service on flights longer than 400 miles from Centennial Airport south of Denver. Flight for Life Colorado routinely serves cities in Montana, for example. The jet will back up the King Air on shorter flights, but it won’t come to Steamboat Springs Airport because of the short runway.
Flight For Life, operating out of Denver, Frisco, Pueblo and Colorado Springs, is part of the emergency transport services of Centura Health. Its staff includes nurses, paramedics, EMTs and respiratory therapists.
Mayer said that in 2011 her organization transported 99 patients from Yampa Valley Medical Center, 45 by fixed-wing aircraft, 53 by helicopter and one by ground.
There are other organizations that provide similar services here.
YVMC spokeswoman Christine McKelvie said the hospital’s first call is to Flight for Life, but if no aircraft is available, their dispatcher contacts other services on behalf of YVMC. Other patient transport services that YVMC has used include AirLife, North Colorado Med Evac and St. Mary’s CareFlight.
The Steamboat Springs-based Yampa Valley Air Ambulance service was discontinued in 2005 after a crash that killed three crew members and injured a fourth.
A Learjet on call
The Learjet most often will appear in Northwest Colorado when it is the second fixed-wing aircraft called out to transport a patient to a larger hospital.
That was the case Wednesday, Mayer said, when the Learjet 35 was dispatched to pick up a patient from Craig’s The Memorial Hospital. The plane landed at YVRA because of a stubborn snow squall in the Craig area.
West Routt Fire Protection District Chief Bryan Rickman said West Routt ambulance crews met the plane at YVRA and picked up its medical crew before turning around and heading for Craig to pick up the patient and return to the waiting jet.
Mayer said the Learjet also could be dispatched to YVRA or Craig when a patient needs to be transported as far as Arizona, California or even the East Coast to see a specialist.
Steamboat patients are transported in the King Air and in a helicopter based in Frisco. The King Air is the choice when instrument flying conditions prevail. Technically, helicopters can fly in low minimums that require instrument flying, Mayer said, but in the mountains, when icing conditions often are associated with instrument flying, the helicopters are not appropriate because they do not handle icing well.