When LifeFlight began in 1998, there were only two hospital helipads in the state, no hangars and extremely limited facilities such as fuel, weather and instrument approaches at rural community airports. It quickly became clear that in order to operate an air ambulance service that would meet the needs of Maine and exceed safety standards, a much more comprehensive aviation environment was necessary.
The first big milestone in LifeFlight’s effort to develop a state-of-the-art aviation infrastructure was gaining legislative and voter support for a $3 million bond package in 2003. Most of the funding went to help nearly all of Maine’s hospitals develop dedicated helipads, with $400,000 left to purchase and implement the mobile human patient simulator (HPS) program.
Subsequent state funding has supported the purchase and installation of several automated weather observing stations (AWOS) at community airports in some of Maine’s most rural communities, which allow LifeFlight to fly safely in these areas. In addition, dozens of GPS approaches have been developed at hospitals and airports to enhance LifeFlight’s instrument flight capabilities.
All of these improvements create a safer and more reliable environment for the LifeFlight’s patients and crew members.