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North Central Aircare helicopter debuts

Cary Ashby • Sep 6, 2017 at 2:51 PM

MILAN — North Central EMS has a new medical helicopter, North Central Aircare I.

“We’re just waiting for the finalization of the Ohio Pharmacy Board,” said Matt Strauss, North Central Aircare regional program director.

Once the Airbus H125B3E, more commonly called an “A Star” helicopter, receives its certification and passes a final inspection, it will be ready to fly patients.

“This helicopter is the only kind to summit Mount Everest,” Strauss said. “It’s pretty much the Cadillacs of civil aircraft.” 

Air Medical Groups Holding, the parent company of North Central Aircare, has 350 to 370 medical bases in the United States. 

“It’s an air ambulance. It’s licensed in the state of Ohio as an air ambulance,” said Don Ballah, executive vice president of North Central EMS.

For about a year, North Central was without a medical helicopter. The previous one was run through Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo. Ballah said that helicopter averaged about 400 flights annually over the course of nine years.

“We were told we didn’t serve the Mercy mission (any longer). The referrals became less and less,” he said.

With the new North Central Aircare helicopter, Ballah said “there is no referral pattern,” which means it isn’t tied to any specific hospital and can fly patients to any hospital via requests from the patient, “requesters” (first-responders) or a facility itself.

“It’s not affiliated with a mega-hospital,” he added.

Ballah estimates the new helicopter will cover a “50-mile circle” of service area.

“That would include both the Toledo and Cleveland trauma centers,” he said. 

Cynthia Geiger, North Central EMS spokeswoman, said having a medical helicopter based at the Milan station means that the agency “once again can provide that air service to the (nearby) communities.”

Just as with the St. Vincent helicopter, the new chopper is staffed by a trauma nurse, advanced trained paramedic and pilot. At the Milan North Central EMS station will be four North Central Aircare nurses, four paramedics and four pilots who will rotate their shifts. 

“It’s the same staff configuration,” Ballah said.

Pilot Paul Spasaro and flight nurse Kitty Cullin flew the Reflector on an exclusive flight Tuesday, which covered from Milan to South Norwalk Road near the U.S. 20 bypass. Spasaro said the FAA requires helicopters to fly at a minimum of 300 feet, but the North Central pilots will fly at about 1,000 feet “just to be neighborly.”

From the helicopter, the pilots can use their mic to click on the rotating beacon located at the top of North Central EMS. 

Spasaro, who trains the other pilots, said it’s easier to see the building at night because of the beacon and the nearby tower. He has nine years of flight experience, which includes tours of the Grand Canyon, “reporting the news” and flight instruction.

“Any time you have it on, you can see it from 25 miles away,” said Spasaro, referring to the beacon. 

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