An AirMed helicopter has officially come to roost in Tooele City.
Officials from AirMed, the University of Utah’s air medical transport program, and from Tooele City, met for a Tuesday morning ribbon cutting at the site of a new helipad located near Maceys at 145 E. 1000 North.
In addition to the helipad, Tooele now has its own dedicated AirMed helicopter, which will be stationed at the site and manned by a crew of AirMed personnel 24 hours a day.
“It’s a very special day for Tooele,” said Tooele City Mayor Patrick Dunlavy during the ribbon cutting ceremony. “When we made the decision to cooperate and partner with the university and AirMed, we had the well-being of our citizens in mind.”
The helipad is located on a city-owned plot designated as the future site for a new Tooele City fire station. When the city outgrows its current facility behind Tooele City Hall, the city will offer to lease some of the available space in the structure to AirMed.
Until then, a conditional use permit approved by the city planning and zoning commission in mid-September, will allow AirMed to maintain a helipad and temporary auxiliary structure on the site without paying a lease.
AirMed officials have stated that the large number of flights from University Medical Center to the Tooele area, as well as the long transit time required to reach the valley from Salt Lake even by air, made the Tooele base of operations necessary.
Jeff Thomas, the newly appointed lead pilot and base manager for the Tooele helipad, estimated that the new base of operations will cut 15 to 20 minutes off an AirMed trip to Tooele. The base’s crew should be able to respond to a call in Tooele Valley in 15 minutes, he said.
As an added advantage, Thomas said the AirMed base could be used to transport patients who are not in need of intensive care for severely traumatic injuries to Mountain West Medical Center for treatment. The helipad is located a little more than a mile from the Tooele hospital.
The base is the fifth permanent base AirMed has established. The other four are located at the University of Utah and in Ogden, Payson and Park City. From Tooele, AirMed will not only be able to service Stansbury Park, Erda, Grantsville and other surrounding communities, but will also extend AirMed’s reach into Nevada, Thomas said. AirMed helicopters usually service a range of 160 miles around the base where each aircraft is stationed.
Tooele’s dedicated helicopter, a single-engine Bell 407, has been outfitted with an array of medical and GPS technology—an outfit worth about $1.7 million, Thomas said. The aircraft is smaller than AirMed’s flagship helicopter, which also made an appearance in Tooele for the ribbon cutting ceremony, but can easily maneuver into small, hard-to-reach areas to pick up patients. In full flight, Thomas said the helicopter can reach speeds of 135-145 mph. Running the helicopter costs approximately $380 per hour.
The helicopter will be staffed 24-7 by a three-person crew consisting of a pilot, a nurse and a paramedic. Most crew members will not be permanently stationed in Tooele. Rather, AirMed will rotate assignments in Tooele through its 150 employees.