Classic Air Medical services take off in Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

Classic Air Medical services take off in Craig

Derek Maiolo

Those who live in Northwest Colorado are constantly reminded of the unique lives they are able to live surrounded by rugged wilderness and pristine mountains. Those who take advantage of the numerous outdoor activities in these areas are also aware of just how dangerous rural living can be when things go awry.

That is why, for the past 27 years, Classic Air Medical has been serving such communities, providing 24-hour emergency transportation and medical care. The company has recently opened a base in Craig complete with a fixed wing aircraft and a readily-available rescue crew working around the clock.

The base, which opened Tuesday morning, will provide air transportation for patients who need to be taken to more advanced medical facilities in Denver and Grand Junction. Chad Bowdre, Marketing Director for Air Medical, said the need for air rescue services has increased in the area over recent years.

"We have a population that is growing older and people that are very active in their lifestyles going to farther-away places," he said.

Already, the base has been put to use. Just a day after opening, crew members from the Craig base provided two air transportations in the new aircraft.

Currently, bases in Steamboat Springs and Vernal, Utah, are equipped with rescue helicopters which have been serving the area in a similar way to the fixed wing aircraft. However, Bowdre said the plane allows rescuers to transport patients more quickly and provide more advanced medical care during flight than the helicopters have been able to do in the past.

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"Anything that the emergency department (in a hospital) can do, we are able to do in the aircraft," he said.

Craig's aircraft will also be able to make rescues in more extreme weather conditions. Even low cloud ceilings and high winds have made rescues impossible in a helicopter, meaning patients have to wait for favorable conditions before receiving care. The new plane will eliminate this delay.

The new base currently employs 13 crew members: four pilots, four medics, four nurses and a mechanic. Bowdre said the company's medical personnel are professionally trained and have an "alphabet soup" of certifications, from critical care to pre-hospital trauma life support.

The local base will also be offering certification classes for emergency medical service personnel and nurses in the area free of charge. Bowdre said the reason for this is the company's dedication to the towns it serves.

"That's what we thrive on: being part of the community," he said.

Even before opening its newest base, Air Medical already had a presence in Moffat County. For the past two years, the company has sponsored the Memorial Hospital's annual golf tournament at Yampa Valley Golf Course. During Moffat County High School's 2014 homecoming football game, the Bulldogs' mascot and the game ball were flown onto the field using one of the company's helicopters.

Bowdre said in the future, the local crew hopes to work together with schools in Moffat County to provide guest lectures on outdoor safety and emergency medical care.

"When somebody who is wearing a flight suit comes into the classroom, they'll suddenly listen to what those people have to say," he said.

Individuals and families may purchase a membership to the company which, in the event of an air rescue, covers the out-of-pocket costs of the flight and care received during transportation. Membership for individuals and families, regardless of size, is available at air-medical.com for an annual fee of $60. Typically, Bowdre said that members save $10,000 in the event of an emergency by joining.

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