Memorial Hermann Life Flight® recently joined in a groundbreaking for a new helipad, complete with lighting and ambulance access, in Crosby, Texas. The helipad – a milestone project that has been in development by the city of Crosby for nearly a year and is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2015 – will provide a centrally located rendezvous point for EMS units in Crosby to meet Life Flight at a safe and secure location. The new heliport will be the first of its kind on the Texas Gulf Coast to be equipped with helicopter GPS Point-in-Space Instrument Approach Procedure, allowing Life Flight to serve the region when weather conditions aren’t ideal. Present for the groundbreaking were: Christy Graves, EMS director for Crosby; the voting board members of Harris County Emergency Service Districts 5 and 80; Eric von Wenckstern, Life Flight administrative director; Georgie Brown, chief flight nurse; and Todd Grubbs, chief pilot.
In December, Life Flight became the first helicopter air-ambulance program in Southeast Texas to be granted authority to conduct flights under instrument flight rules (IFR) by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This new capability allows Life Flight crews to utilize aircraft flight instruments and advanced navigation systems rather than relying solely on visual cues or what is referred to in aviation as visual flight rules (VFR). In an effort to maximize these new IFR capabilities and further reduce patient transport time, the program will be adding its own proprietary GPS procedures to several of the hospitals and other heliports in and around the Greater Houston area. These procedures will allow for direct takeoff and landing at multiple locations that historically might have been restricted to use under VFR only. Together, all of these advancements mean healthcare and pre-hospital providers across the region can now depend upon Life Flight’s much-needed service more than ever.
The Life Flight fleet, which completes more than 3,000 missions each year, consists of six Airbus EC-145 helicopters, all of which are equipped and certified for single-pilot IFR operation. The John S. Dunn Helipad at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center can accommodate four helicopters at one time and is considered one of the busiest helipads in the United States. Founded in 1976 by James “Red” Duke, MD, who still serves as medical director of the program today, the service retrieves critically ill and injured patients in the Greater Houston area and beyond, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.