Airlift Northwest opens new Pasco, Wash., base

The site will operate a turboprop, an aircraft ideal to maneuver in adverse weather conditions around the Cascades.

Airlift Northwest, the not-for-profit air medical transport service of UW Medicine, has opened a new base at Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco to serve the communities of Central and Eastern Washington.

The new base started operations in September with a Swiss-engineered Pilatus PC-12 turboprop airplane. With a range of 1,000 miles, a cruising speed of 328 MPH, and the ability to maneuver in adverse weather conditions on either side of the Cascades, this airplane is ideal to transport patients to receive critical care in the case of an emergency or hospital transfer.

flight nurses Michelle Killingstad and Angie German of Airlift Northwest
Angie German, left, and Michelle Killingstad are flight nurses for Airlift Northwest.

The aircraft can hold patients up to 450 pounds and land on smaller runways in rural communities.

The planes are staffed by two critical care flight nurses, and carry ventilators, glidescopes and hydraulic cranes. They can transport patients on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) –  similar to a heart-lung bypass machine.

“The updated interior and avionics makes it an ideal aircraft for transporting critically ill or injured patients,” said Aries Gum, a flight nurse and base manager for Airlift Northwest. “It is a flying ICU, that can quickly and safely get patients where they need to go for comprehensive care while also caring for them in flight.”

“Airlift Northwest is the only air medical transport service in the region that has two units of blood and plasma at every base, which are proven to increase survival rates for trauma patients when transfused in flight,” said Dr. Rich Utarnachitt, Medical Director, Airlift Northwest.  In the last year, 124 patients received blood products en route to emergency facilities.

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