Representatives of HealthNet Aeromedical Services, Inc. are excited about a new method of flight operation that will decrease the number of emergency medical services flights that have to be cancelled because of poor visibility or low-hanging clouds.
Those representatives showcased an EC-130 Eurocopter at Yeager Airport Monday for members of the media. The EC-130 is a back-up aircraft for HealthNet and is based at the airport. HealthNet officials discussed a flight operational model certified in aircrafts in both the northern and southern regions of the state.
The flight method, known as Instrument Flight Rules, allows an aircraft to operate in poor meteorological conditions -- typically those where pilots must rely on navigation methods other than sight, including a system of navigation tools and satellite-based GPS systems. HealthNet has been using this new model in Beckley for four months and officials claim it has proven to be effective.
Instrument Flight Rules is one of two sets of Federal Aviation Regulations governing civil aviation aircraft operation. The entire HealthNet fleet is equipped with such capabilities but only the aircrafts based in Morgantown and Beckley are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to take off using an Instrument Flight Rules operation model. As of now, the other HealthNet aircrafts are not certified but have access to the flight rules in case of an emergency situation.
"There have been many times in which HealthNet had to cancel flights because of poor visibility and other factors," said Clinton Burley, president and CEO of HealthNet. "IFR has been a positive thing for our operations. When we cancel flights, patients have to be transported by ambulance and that could take several hours .<!p>.<!p>. hours that a patient may not have."
Burley pointed to a specific example on how instrument flight rules is working.
"We had a patient in Beckley this morning with cardiac issues and needed to be transported to Charleston for emergency care. Because of the visibility and low-hanging clouds, we probably would not have been able to fly but IFR operations have made it possible to fly in these conditions."