Memorial Hermann Life Flight® is a critical care air medical transport service based in Houston, Texas. We transport critically ill and injured patients in the greater Houston area within a 150-mile radius of the Texas Medical Center.
Founded in 1976 by James "Red" Duke, MD the service operates around the clock – weather permitting – 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. Crews perform about 3,500 missions each year, making the John S. Dunn Helistop one of the busiest helipads in the world. Since its inaugural flight, Memorial Hermann Life Flight has flown more than 158,000 missions. Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS), we are committed to excellence in aviation safety and critical care as the only not-for-profit hospital-based air ambulance serving Houston and the surrounding communities.
Life Flight is able to transport up to two patients at a time, with each flight staffed by highly skilled personnel and equipped with advanced emergency equipment and necessary medications. Every Life Flight helicopter is inspected and serviced daily.
The Memorial Hermann Life Flight staff consists of 21 pilots, 21 flight nurses, 18 paramedics, eight dispatchers and eight mechanics. Memorial Hermann Life Flight’s pilots enhance patient care by maintaining Air Transport Pilot status, while flight nurses and paramedics sustain Certified Flight Registered Nurse and Certified Flight Paramedic status.
Provided as a community service by Memorial Hermann, Life Flight operates as a hospital-based, non-profit organization that relies on community support and fundraising efforts to pay for the service. It costs about $15 million annually to support the program, none of which comes from tax dollars.
In 1976, civilian EMS was still in its infancy and most hospitals had never considered building a helipad. However, James "Red" Duke, MD and Chief Lester “Whitey” Martin were about to revolutionize patient transportation in Houston and the surrounding areas. Their ground-breaking idea led to the founding of Memorial Hermann Life Flight, an air medical flight program that has been a benchmark for quality and innovation for the past 45 years.
Life Flight began its service on August 1, 1976 with one Alouette operated by Rocky Mountain Helicopters. A second Alouette was added to the fleet in 1977 and expanded once again in 1978 to include a third Alouette. All three aircraft were based at Hermann Hospital, assigned flights on a rotating basis and dispatched from offices below the helipad area. At that time, the service area extended 120 miles from Hermann Hospital.
[Today, Memorial Hermann Life Flight operates with a fleet of six helicopters to serve Houston and the surrounding communities within a 150-mile radius of the Texas Medical Center.]
"Life Flight: Trauma Center Houston" is a six-episode docudrama series that aired on Lifetime. Highlighting not only the Life Flight team but also Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital staff, nurses and affiliated physicians from McGovern Medical School, the original series will give viewers a front row seat to all of the real-life action inside the Memorial Hermann Red Duke Trauma Institute, one of the nation’s busiest Level I trauma centers, following the clinicians as they deal with high-risk, high-stress situations while racing against the clock to save the lives of their patients in critical condition.
Delivering safe quality patient care and being able to provide the life-saving interventions that patients need is our goal. Crew coordination and training is a big part of our patient care. Medical crews consist of one Flight RN/EMT-P and one Flight paramedic. After founding Life Flight in 1976, Dr. James “Red” Duke also served as the Medical Director until 2015. Medical direction is now provided by Drs. Lesley Osborn and David Meyer.
The initial training of medical crew members is a phased process that usually requires about 8-10 weeks to complete. New crew members undergo an initial hospital orientation, an initial aircraft and safety orientation, in-hospital clinical rotations, day flight and medical orientation and night flight and medical orientation.
New crew member candidates receive a mid-term and final evaluation. If the candidates require any further training their orientation may be extended several weeks. Once candidates are deemed satisfactory and have met all initial training criteria they become full crew members.
Safety is a culture at Life Flight. Flight hour requirements for Life Flight pilots are well above the industry standard and pilots go through a rigorous extended training period before flying solo with crews. We are proud to have each aircraft fully equipped with TAS, TAWS, auto-pilot, on-board weather radar, and GPS. Each crew member is NVG aided for night flights. Pilots, mechanics, and medical crews are continually in contact and actively work with safety as the priority of every mission.
The Life Flight fleet consists of six EC-145 twin-engine helicopters covering five bases. Each Life Flight helicopter is capable of transporting two patients and is equipped with Packed Red Blood cells, Liquid Plasma, ultrasound, hemostatic gauze, pelvic binders, the JETT tourniquet (created by Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth physicians), and ISTAT (in-flight lab analysis).
Life Flight also regularly deploys specialty flights staffed with pediatric nurses, neonatal nurses and perfusionists for IABP and ECMO flights.
The fleet also includes fixed-wing aircraft and is available for patient transportation around the world.
Medical Team at Life Flight undergoes extensive training in Critical care transport, which includes altitude physiology and fixed-wing safety. We can fly patients from the Houston area to the destination of choice, bring patients back to Texas from overseas, or follow any other itinerary needed to serve your needs.
Memorial Hermann Life Flight participates in many events in the Greater Houston Area. We can provide landing zone classes to help Emergency Services Personnel in establishing safe and effective landing zones for Life Flight.
To request a landing zone class, or other event participation, please send an e-mail.
Memorial Hermann Life Flight
6411 Fannin St.
Houston, Texas 77030
(Part 135 Certificate, Memorial Hermann Hospital System GVNA529E, TX 101025)