One of the fastest, safest ways to transport a medical patient just got an upgrade.
Meet the AIRBUS H125 helicopter, the newest member of the UCHealth Memorial Hospital staff. On March 5, it went into service - replacing Memorial Star, which served the region for 15 years.
The new, red-and-white aircraft is part of the UCHealth LifeLine's transport fleet and was purchased for about $3.5 million through a new partnership with REACH Air Medical Services. Featuring advanced terrain awareness warning and autopilot systems, the helicopter can get to sick and injured patients in New Mexico, along the Kansas border and Colorado's far western communities.
"It allows us to operate in mountainous environment better than the previous aircraft that we were in," said Michael Thralls, director of the hospital's Air and Ground Critical Care Transport. "It has the latest technology. It's a brand new aircraft that came off the line in November."
He added that it was time for an upgrade to allow staff to pick up patients at higher altitudes and warmer climates.
Services for the helicopter is run through a communications center in Aurora, staffed by a team of specialists and about two dozen critical-care nurses who expedite physician-to-physician contact and transportation details.
UCHealth LifeLine has a second helicopter based in Loveland, where it serves northern Colorado along with parts of Nebraska and Wyoming.
The newest helicopter has the capacity to take a patient and a three-person team, which includes a pilot. They will be equipped with night vision goggles and snow pads for better winter landing.
At 125 mph, the aircraft can take a patient from the New Mexico border to Memorial Hospital Central near downtown Colorado Springs in under an hour.
"As the population of Colorado grows, and the medical needs of our community grow with it, being able to transport our patients safely and rapidly becomes ever more important," Dr. David Steinbruner, Memorial Hospital's chief of staff, said in a statement. "The new UCHealth LifeLine helicopter is a critical addition to our transportation platform."
He added, "With increasing capabilities of UCHealth Memorial Hospital in cardiovascular, neurologic and trauma care, as well as multiple other patient care areas, it is a critical element to assuring our ability to provide rapid transport of sick and injured patients throughout our region."