CHRISTUS Mother Frances Health System and Flight for Life introduced a new aspect to emergency air transportation Thursday morning at Sulphur Springs Airport. Flight for Life, prior to now, had provided helicopter ambulances throughout the area and this new addition is a fixed-wing aircraft that will provide faster and longer distance transport and can operate under weather conditions helicopters cannot.
“This new fixed-wing aircraft will open a world of possibilities and services to patients in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma,” said Stan Holden, Chief Executive Officer of Flight for Life. “Flight For Life’s fixed-wing service will serve as a connector for CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System’s dedication to fiscal responsibility as a steward of community resources and leader of health care innovation throughout the country. With this aircraft, we will achieve greater economies of scale, extending the reach and mission of each of the system’s locations and services throughout a much larger area.”
In addition to what the helicopter ambulance service currently provides, the fixed-wing aircraft adds another facet to the patient-transport capabilities of Flight for Life. The fixed-wing aircraft will allow Flight for Life nurses and paramedics the opportunity to ensure the continuity of care for patients as they move from one facility to another, both within CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System and beyond.
The airplane, a Pilatus PC-12/45 with a cruising speed of more than 300 miles per hour, will allow Flight for Life to extend critical care transport medicine expertise to a greater population of patients in Texas and surrounding states, according to a release from CHRISTUS Mother Frances Health System. The increased speed, range, operational ceiling, all-weather capability and the ability to operate out of relatively small airfields make it an excellent platform to provide the same high quality critical care as we do in helicopters, but in an extended environment.
“Transporting patients in a pressurized cabin allows our aeromedical crews to operate over the top of weather that could potentially ground our helicopter fleet, and the controlled cabin pressure protects our patients’ physical condition at those altitudes,” said Mark Anderson, M.D., Chief of Emergency Care at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System. “The increased interior space provides more physical access to both the patient and the critical life support equipment utilized by our teams of flight nurses and specially trained paramedics.”
The PC-12/45 has a pressurized cabin with a service ceiling of 30,000 feet, cruise speed of 327 miles per hour (285 knots), and a range exceeding 1,800 nautical miles. Flight For Life can accommodate a combination of up to one patient, two pilots and three clinical crewmembers in the PC-12/45, however, standard configuration and crew are one pilot and two clinical crew. The Pilatus PC-12 offers an incredible Flight Management System, room for a patient’s family member and extensive medical equipment.