Flight for Life

Flight for Life

Flight for Life is a prehospital care service with many bases of operation across the United States. Flight for Life is primarily known for its emergency medical helicopter transport, but also operates a fleet of land vehicles and fixed wing aircraft for the transport of critically ill patients to specialized medical care. Emergency medical transport via helicopter is an extremely valuable resource for victims of any serious medical condition. Helicopter transport is normally reserved for the most critically injured patients or patients who cannot be reached by traditional means of EMS. Helicopter transport is also especially useful for the transport of critically wounded patients to specialty medical facilities, such as burn, pediatric, or advanced trauma centers, that may be further away from the location of injury. Many rural communities rely on the speed of the helicopter to reach and evacuate their most serious patients to an available medical center. The helicopter may also be used for search and rescue operations in conjunction with ground units or alone.


Flight For Life began in 1972 with a single Alouette III helicopter, based at St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver, Colorado. It was the first civilian, hospital-based medical helicopter program in the U.S. From its humble beginnings, it has grown to be a regional program responding to nine states.

On June 1, 2004, St. Anthony Flight For Life and Penrose-St. Francis Flight For Life in Colorado Springs, Colorado consolidated under a single administrative structure based at St. Anthony Hospital and became Flight For Life Colorado. The following November, operations expanded to Pueblo, Colorado with a fourth helicopter.


The Flight For Life organization comprises many teams. These teams are made up of Nurses, Paramedics, EMT-Bs, Respiratory therapists, Pilots, and Mechanics.

Traditionally the helicopter is staffed by a flight crew composed of an experienced pilot, critical care nurse, and critical care paramedic. If advanced knowledge of the patients condition is known before takeoff, the crew may also include a respiratory therapist, medical doctor or other specialized medical personnel.

Because of the training and medical equipment available on the helicopter a higher level of care can normally be provided by the crew on the scene of the accident and in-transit to an appropriate medical facility. The flight nurse and paramedic can usually perform more advanced acts and procedure needed for critical patients than the traditional Paramedic on-scene. This includes the placement and monitoring of chest-tubes, certain surgical procedures, an aortic balloon-pump and all of the acts allowed by EMTs and Paramedics.

The pilot’s chief responsibility is the safe operation of the aircraft. All decisions regarding “go or no go” are strictly his. All helicopter operations are under “visual flight rules” (VFR), so weather factors will significantly affect a pilot’s decision.


The helicopter and fixed wing aircraft include specialized medical equipment used in an intensive care unit and emergency department.

Currently Flight for Life Colorado operates four distinctively painted orange Eurocopter Ecureuil AS 350 “AStar” helicopters. Chosen for its high altitude capability and economy of operation, the AStar is a perfect fit for Colorado’s mountain communities and terrain. The helicopters are based at St. Anthony North in Westminster (“Lifeguard One”), Summit Medical Center in Frisco (“Lifeguard Two”), Penrose-St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs (Lifeguard Three), and St. Mary- Corwin Medical Center (Lifeguard 4). Lifeguard One, Three, and Four are in service twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; Lifeguard Two is in service from eight o’clock in the morning until seven o’clock in the evening. They have a service radius of approximately one hundred twenty miles (32 km) from their bases. All helicopters are leased from Air Methods Corporation in Englewood, Colorado. Pilots and mechanics are employees of Air Methods Corp.

When the transport is beyond the range of the helicopter, or when weather precludes flight to a location, a fixed-wing aircraft is called into service. Flight For Life contracts with Mayo Aviation at Centennial Airport in Englewood, Colorado for a dedicated Beechcraft Super King Air 200. This pressurized, twin turboprop aircraft is capable of instrument flight (IFR) at a speed of convert|265|nmi|km|0 per hour (knots), and is used for flights of up to approximately convert|800|mi|km|-1 round trip distance. The pilots are all proficient in multi-engine and instrument flight. Outfitted in a dedicated air medical configuration, the KingAir is capable of transporting any combination of two adult patients, one adult and an isolette, or two isolettes. On most flights, at least one family member is also able to fly along. The bases in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, Colorado do not have dedicated fixed-wing aircraft. When the weather makes helicopter flight impossible, the aircraft from Mayo Aviation may be sent to them to help move a critical patient. For trips beyond the KingAir’s range, Flight For Life Colorado uses a Learjet 35. This aircraft is capable of speeds of convert|440|kn|km/h|0.

External links

Flight for Life Colorado, [http://www.flightforlifecolorado.org/index.php?s=5]


"Flight for Life Colorado." January 4, 2007. .


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