MedStar helicopter takes to skies over Montana


MISSOULA, Mont. - A Washington state-based air ambulance service unveiled its new rescue helicopter, based in Missoula at the International Airport.

"Behind us you see the brand new rotor wing aircraft, the Eurocopter 135. It's a dual patient capable, dual engine, with advanced features," said Missoula Base Chief Tony Raynor.

People got a chance to check out Northwest MedStar's new helicopter Tuesday.

"It's bigger -- that means more room on the inside for us to work on our patients," said former Chief Flight Nurse with Life Flight Larry Peterman. Peterman will begin on MedStar staff Wednesday as the staff flight nurse.

The MedStar chopper can carry two patients. That means fewer life and death choices in the field.

"It has two engines and a little safety factor with that, that we like. It loads from the rear, which makes it a little faster loading and unloading which is always a benefit," said Peterman.

At St. Patrick Hospital, they officially said goodbye to the Life Flight helicopter. It's been serving the community for over 30 years. There was a prayer, tears and waving goodbyes.

"It's a huge emotional change for the staff because we are losing part of what St. Pat's has been for so many years. I think the other part of it is having a new program come in and that really shares the same values and mission of St. Pat's and Providence, and having that continue forward and continuing that care that we have had for so many years," said Senior Director of Emergency Critical Care at St. Patrick, Carol Bensen.

Most of the Life Flight staff moved to MedStar, like Peterman. The two companies worked together before. That company has bases throughout eastern Washington, and transports in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana.

MedStar will be the preferred provider for critical care transport services to the region, and will serve both St. Patrick and Community Medical Center.

MedStar provides three modes of transportation which are ground, plane and helicopter. Locals will start seeing the new chopper over the skies Wednesday morning.

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