Up in the sky, look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s one of Air St. Luke’s new Bell 429 helicopters!
Idaho Helicopters Inc., which owns, fuels and maintains the machines, recently acquired two new helicopters, and the new additions have team members flying high. The twin-engine aircraft also are cause for celebration among the weekend warriors and rural residents that populate St. Luke’s coverage area.
“I am very excited about the new helicopters,” said Blaine Patterson, director of emergency medical services at St. Luke’s Magic Valley. “Air St. Luke’s and Idaho Helicopters have always provided top-of-the-line equipment for the teams. The Bell 429 is considered the best of the best when it comes to EMS or air medical transport helicopters.”
The machines are outfitted with the latest safety equipment and advanced avionics: dual engines, ground proximity warning system, night vision, radar and weather. The biggest changes have to do with the interior; patients previously loaded through the back of the choppers are sideloaded into the new craft. Equipment aboard the aircraft also is lighter and easier to use.
“Having this type of aircraft allows our expert team of clinicians to care for any type of critical patient and, if needed, two-patient capabilities for those backcountry rescues,” said Cheryl Bice, a transport nurse with the Air St. Luke’s Critical Care Team in Boise.
Air St. Luke’s operates two helicopters, an airplane and a ground ambulance team. One of the older 429s replaced by the new aircraft will serve as a standby resource.
Two highly trained critical care teams – one stationed in Boise, one in Magic Valley – and a maternal child team attend to the specific needs of newborns, pregnant women, children and adult patients with cardiac or other critical needs. The teams train and work with local and rural EMS groups to ensure readiness for time-sensitive emergencies.
Air St. Luke’s started out as airplane transport in 1989 and took its current form with Idaho Helicopters Inc. in 2002. Membership support of Air St. Luke’s covers 25,170 households and more than 103,000 individuals in Idaho, Oregon and Nevada.
Dr. Kevin Kraal, medical director for Air St. Luke’s for the Magic Valley and East, said the new aircraft are in keeping with St. Luke’s patient-centered mission and approach.
“What tool can we use for the patient?” he said. “We are grateful for each tool. Are we focused on getting better?
“Our competitors would love to be us.”
Randall Post works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke’s.