MASON CITY, Iowa - Medical helicopters are a useful option for medics to use in an emergency. One North Iowa is upgrading its fleet.
Starting next month, MercyOne North Iowa will be flying a light, twin engine Bell 429 GlobalRanger, a state of the art twin-engine vessel that has more room for personnel to move around and treat patients, as well as advanced navigation and communications equipment, including real-time satellite communications and tracking.
Airmed program manager Bryan Williams has been a flight nurse for about 21 years, and has seen the evolution of medical aircraft over time.
"In 1999, we started with the Bell 206, which we flew that for about 10 years. We had a period in there where we were in an A-Star Eurocopter-type of aircraft. Then we went into a Bell 407, and we've been flying that for 8 years. It's been a great aircraft, it has a lot of power, it fits our mission profile really well. This'll be another transition to add more bells and whistles that we haven't had."
"The avionics allow us to be able to fly in the clouds so we can fly what's called an IFR, instrument flight rules, and that way if we have bad weather, if there are certain conditions that match, we can actually get off the ground and get into the clouds to get to the patient. The Bell 429 has the best avionics that you can have in a medical aircraft and it allows us to do things that we have been able to do in awhile and actually do a few things more. We're really excited as a crew to get the aircraft and put it into service."
Williams says his crew gets about 500 calls a year, with the peak of those calls typically during the summer.