KEARNEY, Neb. — If everything checks out, Good Samaritan Hospital's new AirCare helicopter should go into service by the end of the month.
The aircraft, a Bell 429, is the first new helicopter AirCare has operated.
“It's like going from driving a bus to a Porsche,” said Doug Wulf, chief flight nurse for AirCare. “Now, there's nothing wrong with a bus, but sometimes the Porsche is just better.”
Rodgers Helicopter Services of Kearney provides the helicopter and pilots it for AirCare. Rodgers purchased the Bell 429 at an air medical show in Seattle. All of the pilots have received flight and safety training from Bell.
According to Rodgers' director of operations Ed Spillman, the new helicopter can reach an average cruising speed of 172 miles per hour, making it the fastest helicopter in the state or region.
“We still have the same range (as before),” Wulf said. “It's just functionally better.”
Both helicopters are the same size inside, but the Bell has a rear hatch for loading patients in and out. Wulf said rear loading will make it easier on injured patients because they won't have to be lifted in through the side door and possibly be jostled.
The helicopter also comes with a specially designed ambulance cot that can be lifted by one person and slides easily into the rear hatch.
If the rotors are still going, nurses can use the side door to load instead, Wulf said.
The new helicopter will also allow transport of two patients without advance notice.
Before the helicopter can go into service, it needs to be inspected and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, which Spillman says should happen before the end of November.