Sky ambulance

Geisinger Life Flight’s relocation at Williamsport Regional Airport will lead to a more efficient overall operation.

An open house recently was held at the airport to celebrate the helicopter’s new home.

“It’s wonderful,” said Life Flight nurse Charles E. Kiessling. “We are in one place. We can get moving faster.”

Until recently, Life Flight was stationed a good distance away at another airport building, with maintenance and other supporting operations near the present site.

That wasn’t the best situation, according to Kiessling and other crew members.

“Now, everything is in one building,” explained Life Flight Manager Gerald Splitt. “Unfortunately, it took a few years to happen.”

Splitt said the setup now is similar to Life Flight operations at other locations in Danville, Avoca Airport, State College and Minersville.

He noted that the hangar formerly served as the home of the state police aviation unit.

The decision by state police officials in Harrisburg to move the police helicopter to Hazleton opened up a new home for Geisinger Life Flight.

Splitt said response times will be improved.

“We can get moving faster,” Kiessling added.

Now, when crew members are alerted to an accident that requires a response, they no longer will have to drive or quickly walk over to the helicopter from across the runway with their equipment.

Life Flight pilot Glenn Marken agreed.

“I love it,” he said. “The building over there,” he said, pointing across the airport runway, “is where we used to be.”

Paramedic Steven Bixby said it simply was not the best way to operate.

“This helps us get off the ground in significantly less amount of time,” he said.

And in emergency situations with lives often hanging in the balance, shaving off a few minutes response time can be mean the difference between life and death.

The hangar is set up to include space for the helicopter, maintenance area, kitchen, lounge, pilot’s office and upstairs offices.

Flight crew work 12-hour shifts and can sleep in the building while awaiting emergencies.

Life Flight responds to about 400 to 500 calls annually, Splitt noted.

The flying crew is made up of a paramedic, nurse and pilot.

Splitt said Life Flight carries state-of-the-art equipment for best serving accident victims.

“Pretty much anything you can do in the ER or ICU we can do here,” he said. “It’s a flying ICU, a flying trauma bay.”

And, Splitt said safety always is a priority with Life Flight.