The new helicopter now brings the total to six, with five of those staffed around the clock. The sixth helicopter is used as a backup when others are out of service for maintenance.
A permanent base location has not been identified, but the aircraft is being temporarily based in Smyrna at the maintenance facility of AirMethods, LifeFlight’s vendor for aircraft, pilots and mechanics. The aircraft is being rotated to different rural areas based on call volume and need.
The new aircraft, LifeFlight 5, is an American Eurocopter EC 130. It has a cruising speed of 130 knots, or 150 mph, and is equipped with 360-degree access to the patient, air conditioning, state-of-the-art navigation, a communications and avionics package that includes night vision goggles, a terrain avoidance warning system and a synthetic vision system.
The aircraft has identical markings to the other LifeFlight aircraft, but instead of black, gold and white has been painted a generic blue, silver and white in order to differentiate it from the current LifeFlight fleet. It has lower clearance around the blades, and loads from the side, while the rest of the LifeFlight fleet loads from the rear. This change makes the approach and patient loading a completely different process for emergency providers.
“We are excited to be working with AirMethods as we evaluate the first single engine aircraft in our fleet in more than 20 years,” said Jeanne Yeatman, RN, EMT, interim administrative director of Emergency Services for Vanderbilt.
Yeatman said the evaluation period could last a year or longer as staff and leadership review the advanced safety features and the 360-degree access to the patient on the EC 130.
“The differing paint scheme will make this aircraft stand out, and will allow our customers to provide their feedback during this evaluation period,” she said.
LifeFlight is the only nonprofit air medical service in Middle Tennessee that carries lifesaving blood products on every flight.