Dec. 15--Life Flight will add a fixed-wing plane to its lineup in Lewiston beginning next month.
A Commander 690A aircraft should be installed and parked at the airport site beginning Jan. 1, said Dominic Pomponio, a flight nurse and manager of the Lewiston site. The aircraft is presently being fitted with the medical equipment required of the air ambulance.
The Oregon-based air ambulance set up a base at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport in April with a helicopter that flies patients from accidents within 150 miles of the airport to regional hospitals and Spokane.
Pomponio said the fixed-wing plane should provide another tool for Life Flight. The organization's helicopter is now limited during inclement weather conditions and by distance.
"We do have some limitations with the helicopter, distance being one of them," Pomponio said. "The fixed wing in that case is going to allow us to take patients to Harborview in Seattle, or Portland or Boise."
Life Flight is one of two air medical providers, along with Spokane-based Northwest MedStar, that serve the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.
With advanced avionics and satellite tracking, Life Flight officials hope the fixed wing will expand the provider's transport area to about 1,000 miles from the Lewiston base. Transports to the larger hospitals often provide more specialized services for some patients, Pomponio said.
The plane will be airport-specific, primarily taking patients from airport to airport when they need specific care in a hurry. A patient flying on the fixed wing can go from St. Joseph Regional Medical Center to Harborview Medical Center in about 90 minutes, Pomponio said, including transport time from the hospital to the airport.
Life Flight employs 17 people at Lewiston.
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