CareFlight bids adieu to service plane

St. Mary’s Medical Center said goodbye to its fixed-wing aircraft Monday.

The hospital’s CareFlight aerial ambulance service sold its 1978 Beechcraft KingAir 200 airplane Monday because it was getting to be too old, spokeswoman Robin Brown said.

So the service decided it was time to sell the airplane and lease another one until a replacement can be found.

“It was getting to the end of its life as far as needing a lot of maintenance,” Brown said. “So they decided it was better to start leasing one right now until they find the right one to buy.”

CareFlight services have operated in western Colorado since 1976, becoming the second air ambulance service to operate in the state behind Denver.

Since CareFlight’s plane was placed into service in 2003, it has flown more than 7,000 hours and more than 2 million miles transporting critically ill patients around the nation.

The twin-engine, turboprop aircraft has flown to such places as Dallas, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.

It is equipped to transport up to two patients and four staff members, and was mainly used to transport critically ill patients to the medical center that best suited the patients’ needs.

While the service is looking for a replacement and will lease a plane in the interim, it still has its AS350 Eurocopter and ground ambulance.

The helicopter was brought on board in 2014 as part of a $2.75 million upgrade to CareFlight’s fleet. The helicopter, which replaced an older chopper that the service used for about 12 years, is used for short-range flights — up to 350 miles — and accommodates a single patient at a time.

Part of that upgrade included new equipment, such as pilot helmets with night vision and enhanced terrain and traffic alert systems.

CareFlight routinely transports about 1,000 patients each year from emergency medical incidents and accidents. The 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service operates in western Colorado and eastern Utah.


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