Helicopter Ambulance Marks 30-Year Anniversary
December 26, 2018
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  • Erlanger Health System’s Life Force Air Medical Service is celebrating 30 years of service to the region. For 23 of those years, Erlanger has had a crew stationed at the Upper Cumberland Regional Airport, responding to major traffic accidents and other medical emergencies.

    Life Force 2 is the official name of the crew located at the airport. Blaine Kelley, public relations specialist for Erlanger, said a Bell 412 helicopter was first placed into service at the airport in 1995. It was later replaced by the current aircraft, an Airbus  H135 P2+.

    Kelley said the helicopter is available to transport patients within a 150-mile radius of their base at the regional airport, located between Cookeville and Sparta. Full-time flight crew members include four pilots, four flight nurses and four flight paramedics. The crew also employs one part-time flight nurse and one part-time paramedic. Two full-time mechanics service the aircraft.

    The idea of a medical helicopter at Erlanger began in 1977 when the Board of Directors and trauma surgeons were searching for solutions to transport critically ill or wounded patients to the trauma center in a timelier manner. In 1988, the idea came to fruition when the health system purchased a Bell 412 helicopter for $2.3 million. The helicopter went into service on Dec. 17, 1988 and transported the first patient — a pediatric asthma patient from Sewanee, Tennessee — three days later.

    “From the beginning, Life Force consistently provided the safest and highest quality service to the region,” states a press release from Erlanger. “Progressive, knowledgeable and exceptionally talented aviation, medical and communications teams make the program’s commitment to excellence tangible.”

    In addition to the base at the Upper Cumberland Regional Airport, Life Force is comprised of five other bases and helicopters based throughout the region. Other sites are in Chattanooga, Winchester, Tennessee, McCaysville, Georgia, Calhoun, Georgia, and Andrews, North Carolina. Annually, the flight volume exceeds 2,100 missions.

    Kennedy said the three member crew provides on-the-scene and in-flight critical care treatment such as trauma service, heart and stroke intervention, cutting edge pediatric care and high risk labor and delivery services to the patients in the helicopters.