MedFlight to establish copter base at airport
By Sarah Einselen
MedFlight, an emergency transport service headquartered in Columbus, is beginning the process of establishing a helicopter base at Galion Municipal Airport, according to MedFlight president and CEO Rod Crane. City manager Gene Toy is working with MedFlight to answer questions regarding hangar construction or acquisition, water and sewer environmental issues and site improvements.
Galion is in the middle of a 100-mile black hole of emergency air transport, which made the airport a prime location for MedFlight. “There’s a radius of 40–50 miles around that area that does not have access to medical aircraft promptly,” Crane said. The nearest MedFlight base currently operating is in Lodi, about 50 miles distant, and the Marysville and Columbus bases are 55 to 60 miles from Galion. “So we’re looking at bringing an aircraft and a team,” said Crane, “to improve our response time for scene accidents and medical emergencies.”
“At this time we are talking with the management of the airport,” Crane said, to determine the most economical way to establish the base. Since helicopter crews work in 24-hour shifts and the helicopters themselves have to be serviced and protected from the elements, “it’s a complex base,” according to Crane.
A MedFlight base takes five to six months to become fully operational. Crane expects this one, the ninth MedFlight helicopter base in Ohio, to be up and running by next spring. That timeline may be changed, though, if it takes a long time to arrange housing for the flight crew.
Medflight will employ four pilots, a mechanic, and fifteen flight nurses at the new base, some of whom may be current MedFlight employees willing to relocate to Galion. The flight nurses who work in 24-hour shifts and the four pilots trade off in 12-hour shifts, so they will need somewhere to stay while on duty. “We need rest quarters, a kitchen, pretty much a home environment to keep them safe and connected to our headquarters,” Crane said.
A base would also require constant access to fuel, so the company is also evaluating fueling options at the airport.
To house the flight crew, the company is looking at either leasing a home the county owns adjacent to the airport on State Route 309 or remodeling the unused space upstairs in the airport’s fixed base operator, the main building where pilots may refuel their planes and catch some shut-eye if needed. If MedFlight leases the home the company would also have to build a helipad.
The helicopter that MedFlight plans to install at the base is an American Eurocopter EC-130, a new helicopter model that MedFlight plans to use exclusively after a transitional period. The new EC-130s will be the first air medical helicopters in the country to have an internal cabin management control system for patient oxygen, suction, air systems and lighting control, according to a fact sheet provided by MedFlight director of business development Todd Bailey. “MedFlight is most proud of our long-standing safety record and quality service focused on doing what is right for patients,” Bailey said.
MedFlight helicopters currently transport patients from Galion Community Hospital when needed. The private nonprofit was formed in 1995 from the consolidation of the helicopter transport services operated by Grant Medical Center and OSU Medical Center. Since then, MedFlight has established several helicopter bases around the state and founded a division to provide Mobile Intensive Care Unit transport services between hospitals.