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Addition of twin-engine air medical transport helicopter celebrated by Eastern Panhandle health officials

The Herald-Mail - 6/27/2018

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The $6 million addition to HealthNet Aeromedical Services' base at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport is a refurbished 2003 twin-engine helicopter that cruises at about 150 mph and is equipped with weather radar to navigate through inclement conditions.

The Airbus EC-135, an upgrade for the not-for-profit organization, was put into service earlier this month and celebrated Tuesday afternoon by officials with WVU Medicine, Air Methods Corp, and HealthNet, among others.

"Health care needs go right along with the strong economic growth happening here in the Eastern Panhandle," Clinton Burley, president and CEO HealthNet Aeromedical Services, said in a news release. "This upgraded aircraft is a prime example of our commitment to providing quality critical-care transport to the citizens and visitors of this region."

The addition completes the organization's move to place twin-engine aircraft at every WVU Medicine-affiliated HealthNet Aeromedical Services base, officials said. Each one has the hospital system's logo on the bottom.

Headquartered in Charleston, W.Va., the air-medical critical-care transport system is cooperatively owned and operated by Cabell Huntington Hospital, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.

The organization operates eight helicopter bases in West Virginia, one in Ohio and one in Kentucky, and has safely transported more than 80,000 patients since beginning operations in 1986.

The new aircraft for "Base 8" south of Martinsburg can fly longer distances, at higher speeds and in inclement weather. It comes with more room for the three-person crew and patients who they transport, officials said. The new helicopter can transport up to two patients.

"This ribbon cutting for the new aircraft isn't just a celebration. It shows our dedication to being health care partners," Albert Wright, president and CEO of WVU Medicine, said in the release. "It shows we want to be there for our patients wherever they are in their greatest time of need. We can continue to do that with a top-notch fleet that allows us to put patient and flight-crew safety first."

Air Methods, which oversees aircraft operations, provided training for pilots on operating the EC-135 at their headquarters in Colorado before the new helicopter arrived in late May, officials said in the release.

Alan and Honery Hensley of Jefferson County, W.Va., brought their 5-year-old son, A.J., on Tuesday to see the new helicopter and meet the HealthNet crews that provided emergency care to him during two air-medical transports.

"They're awesome," Alan Hensley said.

Hensley said his son required emergency treatment for a congenital defect in the weeks and months after he was born.

"He's been doing great," Hensley said.


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