University of Tennessee Medical Center and Bell Reach 20 Years

October 25, 2004
AMTC 2004 - Cincinnati, OH - October 25, 2004 - October 2004 marks the 20th anniversary of aeromedical service by the University of Tennessee Medical Center's LIFESTAR program. Since the first flight, Bell Helicopter has been a key partner with the University of Tennessee Medical Center and the LIFESTAR program, based in Knoxville. "For the past twenty years Bell Helicopter has provided UT LIFESTAR with superior aircraft along with customer and technical support second to none," said Jeff Gregory, LIFESTAR program director. "UT LIFESTAR and Bell Helicopter have become a team and have successfully transported over 25,000 seriously ill or injured patients since our program's inception."

The reputation and reliability of Bell Helicopter products has allowed UT LIFESTAR to maintain a safe and effective program. "Our history with Bell dates back to the beginning of our program 20 years ago. We have always had an excellent working relationship with Bell. They have provided us with good service and reliable aircraft," said Norman Majors, Senior Vice President of Health System Administration.

"The demands on our flight program are very high and this year we are on target to transport in excess of 2,000 patients," reported Gregory. "The service averages over 180 flights per month, with approximately 80% of these flights being trauma cases," said Debbie Pickett, medical crew supervisor at UT LIFESTAR.

The UT LIFESTAR program currently operates two Bell 430 helicopters based at the UT Medical Center in Knoxville and at Morristown-Hamblen Hospital in Morristown. The aircraft have been transformed into flying emergency rooms, equipped to manage a wide variety of medical emergencies and trauma cases. "The Bell 430 offers a very stable working platform, smooth ride, and full head-to-toe access of the patient, " Gregory said.

The University of Tennessee Medical Center LIFESTAR Bell 430s are equipped with medical equipment which allow the medical crews onboard to treat critically ill or injured patients, including premature infants, trauma, heart attack, burn and stroke victims. This equipment includes ventilators, IV infusion pumps, a blood chemistry analyzer, O negative blood for emergency infusion and 12-lead EKG equipment.

The Bell 430 is a twin-engine helicopter certified for single-pilot IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight and in the aeromedical role capable of transporting two pilots, along with a medical crew of three and two patients. Both Bell 430s are equipped with the latest in advanced avionics to ensure safe, efficient flights. These avionics include global positioning system (GPS), a moving map display, color weather radar, and a traffic collision avoidance system.

The University of Tennessee Medical Center LIFESTAR program is the result of Dr. Robert Lash's determination to provide a helicopter ambulance service to east Tennessee. In the early 1980s, many rural residents of east Tennessee lived in areas that had no ambulance service, or were too far away from hospitals for ground service to be effective in major emergencies. Dr. Lash knew that a helicopter service could literally be the difference between life and death for many Tennessee residents. Dr. Lash and Norman Majors, UT Medical Center Senior Vice President, pushed to get a helicopter program started. The program got off the ground in 1984.

All of the programs aircraft have been Bell Helicopters equipped with the latest in medical equipment and flight avionics. The first aircraft operated by the LIFESTAR service was a Bell 222. The Bell helicopter was chosen for its twin-engine, single-pilot IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) configuration and ability to transport two patients and two medical crewmembers. A second Bell 222 aircraft was added in 1986.

In 1988, the program switched to the larger Bell 412, which were able to transport two pilots, three medical crewmembers and up to three patients.

In July 2003, LIFESTAR took delivery of two Bell 430 aircraft to replace the Bell 412s. In addition to the two Bell 430s, UT LIFESTAR operates a single-engine Bell 206L-4 as a back-up aircraft to maintain service to the community when one of the Bell 430s is in for maintenance.

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