LifeFlight recently purchased two new, state-of-the-art helicopters to transport critically ill and injured patients in Maine. The Agusta 109 SP model aircraft have a greater weight carrying capacity, more workspace for patient care, and can fly faster than our older aircraft. The new helicopters, tail numbers N901LF and N901XM, are part of a larger project to upgrade and standardize LifeFlight’s frontline fleet of helicopters.
The organization is planning a virtual celebration event to introduce the new aircraft to the public on Thursday, April 15, at 5 p.m.
The event will be broadcast live to Facebook from the Bangor hangar and will include crew members giving a virtual tour of N901LF; remarks from LifeFlight of Maine Executive Director Tom Judge, LifeFlight Foundation Executive Director Kate O’Halloran, CDC Director Nirav Shah, MD and Maine Warden Service Chaplain Kate Braestrup; a testimonial from one of N901LF’s first patients; and live Q&A with the flight crew.
N901LF arrived last fall and transported its first patient on November 6.
More than 6,000 donors made this possible, including several large gifts from individuals and foundations, hundreds of smaller gifts, and thousands of donations made to the annual Cross for LifeFlight (formerly Islesboro Crossing) fundraising event over the last three years. It will replace one of LifeFlight’s two older models which were purchased back in 2004 and have seen 16 years of hard work in service to Maine. A fundraising campaign is now underway to secure funds to purchase the next needed helicopter.
N901XM went into service in March and was the result of a compelling offer from long time aviation partner, Leonardo Helicopters, to upgrade one of LifeFlight’s older helicopters to the newest generation model.
The enhanced workspace in the SP models, coupled with the ongoing miniaturization of medical technology, allow for new therapies for very complex patients to be added. Additional hi-tech features create the platform for “connected” helicopters to facilitate remote diagnostic decision-making (think in-flight telehealth) and establish an infrastructure to support future medical equipment and treatments.
The new models also boast state-of-the-art aviation technology necessary to achieve a new level of safety and reliability on every mission. Maine’s harsh and unpredictable weather conditions have long been a challenge LifeFlight has worked to overcome. Recently, LifeFlight has partnered with the FAA to establish a national demonstration project for new precision flight routes at much lower altitudes than what has existed for the last several decades. These low-level routes will give pilots more options to safely and reliably transport patients.
However, only helicopters with advanced avionics technology will be able to access the new routes. That’s where the SP models come in. Unlike older models, N901LF and N901XM have a 4-axis autopilot and the ability to receive vertical guidance from GPS which allows the aircraft to operate at low-level precision instrument flight routes. This means LifeFlight can answer more calls for help, transporting hundreds of additional patients every year.
LifeFlight of Maine operates three helicopters and one airplane from bases in Bangor, Lewiston and Sanford. LifeFlight also partners with local ground ambulance partners to answer calls via ground when the aircraft are unavailable.
The LifeFlight Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that everyone in Maine has access to emergency medical care when they need it most. The LifeFlight Foundation supports LifeFlight of Maine, the state’s only air medical and critical care transport organization which brings high-level care and advanced equipment directly to the patient. LifeFlight cared for more than 2,200 patients last year and has transported more than 30,000 patients since it was launched in 1998. By raising philanthropic dollars and community awareness, the LifeFlight Foundation helps ensure that Maine’s most vulnerable patients receive the highest quality care when every minute counts. The Foundation raises funds for aircraft, medical equipment, statewide aviation improvements, and educational outreach programs offered by the LifeFlight of Maine crew. The LifeFlight Foundation and LifeFlight of Maine operate as separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations.