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Mercy Flights adds helicopter to fleet

Photo courtesy of Mercy Flights Mercy Flights will have two helicopters with the addition this week of a new Bell 407 GXi.
Helicopter can shuttle patients from remote sites

Mercy Flights announced Monday it bought a new helicopter to support growing medical transportation needs in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

The nonprofit ground ambulance and air transport organization will have two helicopters once the new Bell 407 GXi arrives at Mercy Flights headquarters in Medford this week. Mercy Flights also has three airplanes and 26 ambulances.

The new helicopter will start flying patients by the beginning of February once it wins Federal Aviation Administration approval, Mercy Flights said.

The added helicopter will boost Mercy Flights’ ability to pick up patients from remote, rural locations and fly them to hospitals. The helicopter can also ferry patients between hospitals, Mercy Flights said.

Mercy Flights Chief Executive Officer Sheila Clough said Southern Oregon hospitals are becoming more advanced in the level of care they provide. More patients are staying in the Rogue Valley for medical care rather than being flown out of the area.

“This is incredibly good news for all of us who live here,” Clough said. “It also means that the demand for medical transports is changing. We anticipate, in the near future, fewer flights to bigger cities like Portland and Seattle because our local health care partners are providing incredible care right here at home. What we need in our region is additional capacity for transport to and between facilities.”

Clough said the decision to add a helicopter to the fleet followed an extensive community needs assessment, including input from the flight team and health care and community partners. Mercy Flights also got a special nonprofit financing option from the Oregon Facilities Authority.

“When we looked carefully at the current and future needs of our neighbors and our health care partners, it was clear that a new helicopter was the answer to enhance the care and service we provide for our communities,” she said. “The special loan rates will allow us to expand our fleet while maintaining affordable memberships and services.”

To honor Mercy Flights’ Southern Oregon roots and founder George Milligan, Clough partnered with board member and Milligan’s granddaughter Pirkko Terao and her family to select tail number N973MF with the FAA to signify his year of retirement.

An air traffic controller and pilot in Medford, Milligan founded Mercy Flights in 1949 after a friend of his died of polio in Southern Oregon. His friend was unable to survive the long, slow ground transport to reach medical care in Portland.