ST. LOUIS – There was lifesaving news Tuesday from St. Louis Children's Hospital, as the hospital will receive two new helicopters for its air ambulance fleet. The new helicopters, valued at approximately $15 million, will replace the two that have been in service for nearly 30 years.
They will transport kids who need them most: from the tiniest of "premies" to 18 year olds who have suffered catastrophic injuries.
It’s obvious from the instrument panels how much things have changed since the “Kids Flight 1” and “Kids Flight 2” helicopters debuted in 1989.
The two EC-145 aircraft have digital flight instruments, larger fuel tanks, and an auto-pilot feature to make flights in conditions the other aircraft can’t handle.
“Because this has autopilot; it has a glass cockpit. It has all the instrumentation for us to be able to fly in the clouds,” said pilot Jameson Jones.
The new helicopters can fly for three hours without refueling. And perhaps most importantly for the medical crew, there’s a lot more room. The older helicopters got a bit cramped.
The EC-145 helicopters can store more equipment, like specialized ventilators for “premies,” who may not survive a long drive to get the renowned lifesaving care at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
“Those kids don’t have a whole lot of reserve left,” said flight nurse Angie Dreisewerd. “Every single minute for them counts. Driving to a hospital two hours away when you can get there in 30 to 35 minutes sometimes is super important.”
It’ll be two to three more weeks until the current helicopters are retired and the new ones take off. The crews can’t wait.
“Thank God for modern medicine, because these kids have a second chance at life and this is why we do the job we do here,” Dreisewerd said.
One helicopter will operate out of downtown St. Louis; the other out of Farmington. That’s the same as the current setup.
A company called Air Methods actually owns the aircraft. Its fleet provided care for more than 70,000 patients in 48 states last year.