By Tom Fontaine
West Mifflin-based STAT MedEvac plans to replace three of its oldest medical helicopters during the next year with choppers that routinely sell for $4.5 million apiece, the company said.
STAT MedEvac, which provides air medical transportation in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and the Washington region, will receive the first helicopter this fall and the second early next year, said company spokesman Dan Nakles. It ordered both in late 2007.
The company this week ordered a third helicopter and hopes to receive it sometime next year, Nakles said.
The helicopters, EC135s made by Texas-based American Eurocopter, will replace two made in 2000 and one made in 2001. Neither Nakles nor the manufacturer would say how much STAT MedEvac is spending on the three helicopters.
STAT MedEvac’s helicopters typically last less than 10 years on the job, “partly because of the wear and tear and partly because technology is always improving,” Nakles said.
The EC135s weigh up to 6,415 pounds, are nearly 40 feet long front blade to tail, and can reach speeds up to 158 mph and stay in the air more than 3 hours, the manufacturer said.
It’s unclear where the helicopters will be based, Nakles said. STAT MedEvac — a service of the Center for Emergency Medicine of Western Pennsylvania, whose board is controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center — has 18 bases for its 15 EC135s and six larger EC145s. Eleven bases are in Western Pennsylvania.
The region’s second-largest medical air transportation provider, Allegheny General Hospital’s LifeFlight, has no plans to replace or add helicopters, said spokesman Dan Laurent.
LifeFlight will undergo a routine inspection Monday by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems. The commission inspects all air medical programs once every three years.