Knoxville — The Mercy One helicopter stationed in Knoxville was replaced with a new, top-of-the line model - the same as the one based in Des Moines - last month. Since the service started in Knoxville on Nov. 15, 2010, its utilization has exceeded the expectations Mercy had when the decision was made to expand.
Dennis Cochran, Flight Program Manager for Mercy, said the biggest difference between the new aircraft and the former one is the size of the interior cabin. The new, four-rotored aircraft also flies faster. Other features allow stretchers to roll into the craft, the ability to handle more specialty cases (such as OB, pediatric and neonatal) and up to three attendants can fit into the back.
The aircraft belongs to Air Methods. Mercy has an agreement with Air Methods in which it pays for service. Pilots and mechanics are employed by Air Methods, while the medical personnel are employed by Mercy.
One of those pilots, Ryan Winter, has been with Air Methods since 2008 and has been flying out of Knoxville for a couple of years. He was inspired to become a helicopter pilot after watching an "Operation Prom" event while in school. When he saw a helicopter land on the football field, he knew he wanted to fly them himself one day. There is not much difference between flying this craft and the previous.
"They handle similar to each other," Winter said.
As for Technician Sara Meyers, who joined the Mercy One crew in March, there are differences between serving in a hospital emergency room and being part of an air rescue team.
"You rely on your partner a lot," Meyers said of her new position. She is still training. Assisting in her training is fellow crew member, Sarah Tripp.
"Your doctor's not beside you," Tripp said. She has served with Knoxville's crew since its inception in 2010. Treating a patient in the air is a more unstable environment, one with fewer resources available for treatment.