Airlift Northwest hires Aero Air for medical transport

Posted: Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A top medical transport company for Southeast Alaska is changing vendors but not much else. Airlift Northwest has awarded a flight contract for the area to Aero Air, a company based in Hillsboro, Ore., that provides medical transportation.

Aero Air replaces Executive Flight, based in East Wenatchee, Wash., which has served as Airlift Northwest's flight server for several years. Airlift Northwest Executive Director Chris Martin said the change came about because Executive Flight's contract was up and Airlift Northwest, a state agency in association with the University of Washington, was required to put out a new request for proposal rather than a direct renewal. Martin said a review team deemed that Aero Air's proposal won "hands down."

Martin said this change will not affect local transport of patients and medical services, only the vendors for the plane and the aircraft itself, which will be a Learjet 31A fixed-wing aircraft - a newer model than the current plane. She said other than that, all transport services will remain the same after the new vendor's work starts May 1, 2011.

"We've heard a lot of rumors about this, and we want to assure that we're at Juneau to stay. It's just going to be a different aircraft with a different vendor," said Martin, noting the company started in 1982 with Southeast Alaska as a focus and will remain that way.

She said the new request for proposal came at a good time since the company was undergoing changes in its Washington office, which made changes easy to incorporate.

Another potential change may be the pilots for the Learjet. Jeff Tobolski, Aero Air's vice president of operations, said the company will be interviewing pilots for the switch, including pilots currently under the Executive Flight contract.

Tobolski said because Aero Air currently does medical transport for LifeMed Alaska out of Anchorage and Fairbanks, it is well equipped for Alaska runs. He said the two programs complement and Aero Air has done occasional flights out of Juneau before when additional help was needed.

"We're quite familiar with all the operations down there so I think it's going to be a great match," he said.

Airlift Northwest has fixed-wing bases in Juneau and Seattle. Martin said the company does around 300 medical flights out of Southeast a year.

She added the company is hoping for another change in the summer with the possible addition of a second aircraft in Juneau.

Martin said the company is open to public questions. Inquiries can be addressed to her at clmartin@u.washington.edu.

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



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