Glenwood-based Classic Air Medical crew: Three years, hundreds of missions
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Speed. Access. Locate.
For Classic Air Medical flight paramedic Reed Clawson, those three words depict the primary function of an emergency helicopter like the Bell 407 at Valley View Hospital and relies on the facilities of Glenwood Springs Airport.
“One is speed. You have to get the patient from Point A to Point B faster than you can drive them,” Clawson said of the first of three key uses of emergency helicopters. “Two would be accessing the patient. Maybe they are in some sort of tricky terrain that you can’t get to by vehicle.”
“Third would be locating them,” Clawson said.
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At night, the Classic Air Medical crew’s night vision goggles become invaluable as they provide the ability to see even a small cellphone light from the air.
In April 2016, Classic Air Medical began conducting missions from Valley View Hospital and the Glenwood Springs Airport. Whether carrying out search and rescue operations or transporting patients from one hospital to another, since 2016, Classic Air Medical’s Glenwood-based flight crew has performed several hundred missions.
The Bell 407’s interior includes a gurney, cardiac monitor, ventilator, medication infusion pumps and other critical equipment.
“We fly a paramedic and a nurse so that we can do the same as an ambulance plus the same as what the hospital could offer in an emergency room just to continue that care all the way to wherever they are going,” Clawson said.
While numerous patients have relied on Classic Air Medical’s services over the years, the emergency helicopter itself has depended on Valley View Hospital and the Glenwood Springs Airport, but for different reasons.
Clawson said Classic Air Medical utilizes Valley View Hospital’s helipad as a take-off, landing and parking area.
“The airport (provides) everything that (a helipad) doesn’t have,” Clawson said. The Glenwood Springs Airport provides hangar space for the helicopter to reside in during bad weather as well as a designated place to perform maintenance and to refuel.
“It’s an area where we can park for fueling operations because if there wasn’t a place here to do it, we would have to fly to Rifle, Eagle or Aspen every time we needed fuel,” Clawson said.
According to Clawson, the Bell 407 needs refueling after every flight.
While Classic Air Medical has been in Glenwood now for over three years, aviation in Glenwood Springs dates back to the early 20th century.
Additionally, last year the city began its Airport Property Scenario Planning Project, “as a land-use comparison, community benefit and economic analysis,” according to the city’s website.
Recently, the project’s lead consultant Gruen Gruen + Associates presented three potential scenarios for the 64 acres of land in south Glenwood Springs that included expanded aviation, a mixed-use village and a residential village.
According to Gruen Gruen + Associates final report the expanded aviation scenario “provides a permanent base for medical transport and emergency/fire response helicopters, including a helipad and hangar to accommodate maintenance and temporary storage needs.”
The mixed-use village scenario also incorporated “multiple helipads and a large aircraft hangar to accommodate maintenance,” the report outlined.
However, the residential village scenario provided two different plans with one discernible difference being the removal of “aviation uses from the land-use mix.”
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Wayne Hall took a job as an air traffic controller at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in 2003 thinking he would stay for a short time. Instead he stayed for nearly 17 years and was promoted up to the position of air traffic manager. He reflected on the experience upon retirement.