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New Helicopters at Mercy Unfazed by Harsh Weather

New Helicopters at Mercy Unfazed by Harsh Weather
Photo credit: Mercy Health Systems

Mercy Springfield Communities is now sporting three brand new EC135 helicopters, after the hospital invested $12 million to upgrade the existing aircraft. The advanced helicopters allow pilots to fly in weather conditions they previously could not have endured. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark reports.

The three new aircraft make it easier for pilots to navigate in weather that causes reduced visibility and low clouds, according to DJ Satterfield, the director of Mercy’s Life Line Air Medical Service. Each helicopter holds updated technology that allows them to operate under the FAA’s Instrument Flight Rules, just like commercial airlines.

“It does give us new technology that really gives us a huge layer of safety and some technology in the avionics that lends us to fly in the clouds. It will take a few months to get us up to speed to that, but that alone, with the autopilot and radar and some of those technologies, we feel adds a huge layer of safety.”

The hospital has been using helicopter air medical services since 1984, when the center invested in its first aircraft. Since then, they’ve added two more vehicles to the fleet, which are routinely used as part of the emergency response team at the hospital. Satterfield says the medical service goes on about four emergency flights a day. He says that they’ve never had an accident since they bought the first helicopter back in the 80s.

He says to think of the Life Line unit as an ambulance in the air.

“The medicines that we carry and the supplies, along with the monitors, equipment, is really a mini emergency room. So in any given day, certainly the high profile stuff with accidents on the road, but really what we see as much of would be heart attacks, strokes and then just general surgical and medical emergencies.” 

Next Tuesday Dec. 18, Mercy is hosting a blessing and celebration of the new helicopters at 10:30 a.m. in the parking lot just south of Mercy Clinic-Smith Glynn Callaway at the intersection of E. Walnut Lawn and S. Maryland Avenue.

The event will allow people to come and get a closer look at the new aircraft.

“It’ll be short and sweet, but we’ll get these commissioned and in service that day, and we’re excited.”

In case of bad weather, the event will be postponed.

For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark