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New Airlift Northwest medical plane means wider service area and lower fuel costs

Open house planned May 15 in Juneau

Posted: April 25, 2011 - 8:23pm
Airlift Northwest will begin operating their Learjet 31A out of Juneau on Sunday.   Provided by Vince Hamblin
Provided by Vince Hamblin
Airlift Northwest will begin operating their Learjet 31A out of Juneau on Sunday.

Airlift Northwest enacts its new contract with Aero Air this weekend, meaning a new jet capable of additional destinations will be servicing the air ambulance service. This contract replaces that of the existing vendor, Executive Flight.

The company’s Learjet 31A will begin operating out of Juneau on Sunday. Airlift Northwest Executive Director Chris Martin said there are distinct advantages to using this craft over the previously used Learjet 35.

She said the plane is medically configured to bring in all types equipment needed for critical care patients and patient transfers between Juneau, Seattle, Anchorage or Sitka. She said there will also be two nurses on each flight who are trained in critical care.

One of the primary advantages of the new contract is the ability to broaden Airlift Northwest’s coverage areas. “We were not able to land the Lear 35 in Klawock or Haines. Now we will be able to service both of those,” Martin said, explaining this is possible because the 31A requires a shorter runway than the 35.

Skagway will also be added to the service’s destinations. Martin said they can go there during the day when the airport gives permission, something they were not able to do before.

“We have much more ability to service most of Southeast Alaska.”

The Learjet 31A will also offer a more economical fuel rate. The fuel savings are approximately 50 gallons per hour, equaling fuel savings for about 200 gallons from Juneau to Seattle, according to Aero Air Chief Pilot Vincent Hamblin.

Martin said about $750 in fuel costs are saved each way between Juneau and Seattle.

“Because the business in Southeast Alaska picks up in the summertime, we plan to have a second 31A in Southeast during peak hours of the day through September,” she said, adding this second plane will probably start in early May.

“We’re really committed to serving the citizens of Southeast Alaska. We’ve been here since 1982. We’re excited about a new vendor and two planes in the summer,” she said.

There will be an open house for the new plane from 1-4 p.m. on May 15 at Airlift Northwest’s Juneau base at 8429 Livingston Way. People will be able to tour the aircraft and meet the crews. Food will be provided.

Inquiries about the service can be addressed to clmartin@u.washington.edu.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.

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