Sunday, July 2, 2017

Life Link II: Aitkin Municipal Airport (KAIT), Minnesota

A blue sky hung over Aitkin Municipal Airport the morning of June 14, as the Pilatus PC-12 swept down for a landing. The Pilatus is a new aircraft of Life Link III, a regional provider of emergency medical transport. Life Link III staff were present at the field, ready to answer questions both about the craft and on the service they provide.

The Pilatus PC-12 is the Life Link III’s new, dedicated fixed-wing aircraft. Unlike a helicopter, it can fly in poor weather conditions, such as icing. The Pilatus can reach speeds of over 300 mph, and provides more cabin space for patients and crew compared to a helicopter.

Bill Schneider, a member of the Life Link III crew, further elaborated on the Pilatus’ specifications. It is generally staffed with a nurse, a paramedic and a pilot. The plane is used for airport-to-airport transport and would not be used to make road landings. Life Link III works with local medical and ambulance crews to get patients to and from hospitals. The Pilatus can fly over 2,000 miles in six hours. Longer flights in-state may take a patient from Aitkin to Rochester. As Schneider explained, such flights could happen for specialty cases where a sick but stable patient needed a transfer.

Life Link III is a non-profit company specializing in air medical transport. Nine health care organizations make up the consortium to which Life Link III belongs, including Allina Health, Children’s Minnesota, Fairview, Hennepin County Medical Center, Regions Hospital, Sacred Heart Hospital, CentraCare Health, St. Luke’s and Essentia Health. However, Life Link III doesn’t exclusively service these organizations. The decision of a physician at the hospital dictates where a patient will end up. Life Link III will also work with ground medical crews and the patients’ family to get patients to the facilities necessary for their care. LifeLink III works to provide the closest available aircraft to a patient, and will mediate to get an aircraft if necessary.

Life Link III has bases in Alexandria, Willmar, Brainerd, Hibbing, Cloquet, Anoka, as well as one in Rice Lake, Wis. Of these, Brainerd is the most recent, having opened for operation in April of this year. The Pilatus itself is currently based in Anoka, though its location may vary based on severe weather and patient needs.

On Friday, July 28, from 1:30-5 p.m., Life Link III will be holding an open house for the public at their Brainerd hangar, located at 16229 Bonanza Lane, Brainerd. Medical staff will be available to give tours of aircrafts on-site. A brief program will be given a 3 p.m. Those who are interested would do well to go and learn more on the necessary and life-saving service Life Link III provides.

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