Airport board exploring options for StatFlight

Photo courtesy StatFlight Facebook

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — An emergency medical helicopter service is looking to relocate to the Huntingburg Airport.

But it needs a facility that allows the three-member crew to stay close to the helicopter 24/7.

Representatives of St. Vincent StatFlight/PHI Air Medical came to the Dubois County Airport Authority Monday to find out their options for getting such a facility.

“Wanted to see if the airport would be interested in building a facility that they would rent and use as crew quarters,” said StatFlight representative Steve Weber. The quarters would need three bedrooms and a kitchen, office, dayroom and bathroom.

Statflight has been negotiating with Kimball International to use its hangar for the helicopter. But the company does not seem interested in doing renovations for crew quarters, Weber said.

There would be three people stationed with the helicopter: a pilot, nurse and medic. And they always need to be located close to the helicopter.

“The goal is to be off the ground within 10 minutes of getting a call,” Weber said. “So proximity to the aircraft is key.”

The 30-year-old company used to be called St. Mary’s LifeFlight; two years ago, the name changed when St. Mary’s became part of the St. Vincent’s medical system, StatFlight representative Tim Lowe said. The company has six bases across the state.

Currently, the helicopter is stationed at a helipad in Evansville, from which it transfers patients to and from hospitals, as well as takes patients to hospitals from emergency scenes.

“The Jasper area has been one of their big supporters of using the aircraft,” Weber said. “We do a fair number of scene flights and hospital transfers out of Jasper.” He added that he can get a letter of support from Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center if the board would like to have that.

Moving the aircraft from Evansville to the airport would help StatFlight better serve the public, Lowe explained.

“This would put us in a better position for the hospitals we are currently servicing, and it puts us closer to the patients who are requesting us more for the personal flights,” he said, “not just in this county, but the surrounding counties as well.”

In Evansville, paramedicine and road infrastructure have improved and increased, so the demand for the StatFlight service has decreased, Weber said.

“It’s really about getting the aircraft closer to the patients who need to go somewhere,” he said.

Lowe said StatFlight would like to know what options it has at the airport. “We’re willing to explore any option,” he said.

Airport board attorney Phil Schneider said the airport typically leases land to companies for $1 per year for 20 years and allows the company to make improvements on the land as it needs. The airport has also leased existing hangars, but the tenant still makes the improvements. “The airport has never advanced capital upfront for any corporate hangars,” he said.

Board members took no action on the matter. There was not a quorum at Monday’s meeting, and the board members there wanted to talk about the matter with other members.

Board President Jim Hunsicker, who was listening to the discussion via phone, asked Lowe and Weber to write down the dimensions of the kind of facility they needed as well as terms they could agree to in a lease, and submit that to the board.

The board also:

• Heard that meetings were held with neighbors who live in the area of the upcoming runway extension. A meeting was held Monday afternoon and Monday evening to explain the expansion project and its impact on the area, and to answer any questions they had.




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