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Airlift Northwest hosts open house

January 25, 2011
Our friends at Airlift Northwest opened the doors on Friday to show off their new facilities.  For many years, Airlift operated out of a well-worn wood-framed and stucco-clad building alongside Boeing Field.  In November, they moved to a new home, still in the Boeing aviation complex, just a short walk north.  The new space is not luxurious by any stretch but it is undoubtedly more functional.
Airlift Northwest is, of course, the premier air medical service provider with one of the world’s largest and most geographically varied service areas, stretching from Alaska to Eastern Washington.  Founded by Dr. Michael Copass in 1982, Airlift’s mission is to provide safe, efficient air medical care to critically ill and injured infants, children and adults.  In 2010, Airlift served 3,684 patients.  In that year, 26% of flights were rotary wing 9-1-1/EMS scene responses, 23% were fixed-wing flights and 51% were rotary wing inter-hospital transfers.  Airlift doesn’t officially track “lives saved” but the numbers one could compile anecdotally would be overwhelming.
In Airlift’s old space, the ComCenter, the continuously manned (and womanned) room from which rescue flights are dispatched, overlooked a parking lot and railroad tracks.  Now, they have a much more practical view towards the tarmac where Airlift’s small fleet of fixed and rotary wing aircraft are located.
The new facilities also provide better space for emergency medical training so the flight nurses, the men and women who do some of the most dangerous and demanding work in the healthcare profession, can keep their skills sharp.  They also have more comfortable barracks for flight nurses pulling late shifts on-call.
The new training room at Airlift Northwest.

In attendance were a cross-section of Airlift’s extended family.  Trustees Johnese Spisso and Lori Mitchell, two of Airlift’s strongest supporters, were on hand to lend encouragement.  KING 5 News anchor Allen Schauffler, no stranger to helicopters, toured the facilities.  And colleagues from throughout UW Medicine came to see Airlift’s new digs first hand.  Some folks who typically interact with Airlift exclusively by phone or email were finally able to match a name to a face, so the atmosphere was one of meeting old friends for the first time.

Guests also had a rare opportunity to step inside an air rescue vehicle.  Pilots and flight nurses were on hand to describe the operation of their EC135 helicopter, Learjet 35A and their new turboprop.  Last year, Airlift missed over 160 flights because their Learjet was in use and unavailable.  The turboprop helps Airlift meet that demand and provides enhanced capability to land at shorter airstrips.

The new space still has a few minor inconveniences.  For example, the administrative offices are located in a separate area detached from operations.  But the work spaces are significantly upgraded with an open floor plan.  In fact, only two people have offices with doors that close and Executive Director, Chris Martin, is not one of them.  Overall, the new headquarters is a vast improvement that will facilitate Airlift’s provision of high level air medical service to our region for years to come.

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