Open house at airport features helicopters

Life Link III, an air medical transport nonprofit consortium of nine hospitals, held an open house Aug. 15 at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport.

Melanie Smalley of Andover and her daughters Ella, three months old, and Ava, three years old, look at one of Life Link III’s helicopters during an Aug. 15 evening open house at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport. Photo by Eric Hagen

Melanie Smalley of Andover and her daughters Ella, three months old, and Ava, three years old, look at one of Life Link III’s helicopters during an Aug. 15 evening open house at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport. Photo by Eric Hagen

The event was held inside and just outside the Golden Wings Museum, so various historic planes were on display, but Life Link III had a couple of helicopters at the event as well that some got to ride in.

There was a slideshow showing what a flight nurses typical day is like. There were door prize drawings, which included a helicopter ride.

The Anoka County-Blaine Airport is one of four bases in Minnesota for Life Link III, according to its website. The others are in Alexandria, Hibbing and Willmar. It also has a base in Rice Lake, Wis.

Life Link III recently purchased six helicopters through AgustaWestland of Philadelphia, Pa., with the option of buying six more, according to Life Link III spokesperson Kristen Brand.

Brand said the first helicopter should arrive in November or December and the others would be delivered about once a month until all six helicopters are in place.

Life Link III currently leases its helicopters through Air Methods Corporation, which is based out of Denver, Colo. This company will continue to provide pilots and mechanics for Life Link III, however, Brand said.

The purchase will reduce the overall annual cost of aviation operations because helicopters generally retain 50 percent of their value after 10 years, and this fits nicely for the company to continue preparing for reimbursement changes under health care reform, Brand said.

According to a press release from Life Link III, the AW119Kx model helicopters being purchased features a Garmin G1000H avionics system, which includes a synthetic vision system, moving map, highway in the sky and obstacle/terrain avoidance systems for enhanced situational awareness and safety. The system is optimized for diagnosis and data analysis for maintenance purposes.

Members of the Life Link III consortium include Allina Health, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Essential Health St. Mary’s Medical Center, Fairview Health Services, Hennepin County Medical Center, Regions Hospital, Sacred Heart Hospital of Eau Claire, Wis., St. Cloud Hospital/CentraCare Health System, and St. Luke’s Hospital.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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