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Air Evac Lifeteam #78 Celebrates 10th Anniversary

October 24, 2018
BY ED PARSONS & LAUREN MATTHEWS - Staff Writers ( , Wetzel Chronicle

The Wetzel Co., Air Evac Lifeteam #78 base celebrated its 10th anniversary Oct. 19 with an open house and refreshments. Located at 2 East Benjamin Drive in New Martinsville, the air medical base has 15 employees, including flight nurses, flight paramedics, pilots, an aviation maintenance technician, a program director and a membership sales manager. Crews are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to the scene of a medical injury or illness, or to transport patients between medical facilities.

"We serve residents within a 70-mile radius of New Martinsville," said Program Director Michael Conners. "Our employees live and work in the communities we serve, and we are proud to be here."

Conners said the Oct. 19 celebration was an opportunity for "folks to come in and see what we do and how we do it."

Article Photos

Photo by Bruce Crawford
Pictured are some of Air Evac Lifeteam #73 base’s personnel. Pictured are Mike Hughes, RN; Keith Cummings, pilot; Mike Conners, program director; Michelle Smith, sales manager; Janie Ward, regional director; Pathrusim Keaffaber, RN; Nic Iarossi, flight nurse; Julie Gotses, flight nurse; Tim Stanley, flight paramedic.

Conners said the company averages a flight a day per base. The Wetzel County Air Evac site has four full-time pilots at the base, one on duty at all times. Pilots work 12 hour shifts. A flight nurse and a flight paramedic are also on duty at all times. "Sometimes we fly double nurse, so we have those three crew members on base at all times," Conners said.

When asked if there is a limit to how far the helicopter will fly, Conners stated, "To an extent."

He elaborated, "We can only go as far as the fuel can carry us. If we happen to have a long flight, though we don't like to, we can stop and fuel on the way with that patient on board. It's called a hot fuel."

Conners said the local Air Evac base performs flights to several

places - Morgantown, Wheeling, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and even Cleveland.

Conners explained that, thanks to agreements with Wetzel and Tyler counties, any of those counties' residents can be flown out of their respective counties and other nearby areas for no charge. "The county has it covered. All a person has to do is be a resident," said Conners.

Full memberships cover Air Evac service in 48 states. Conners noted that, including sister companies, coverage could extend to more than 320 bases across the nation.

The Wetzel County Air Evac base had several of its personnel on site Oct. 19 to share information about the service, tidbits and fun facts, as well as future aspirations for the site.

Future aspirations currently involve a trial of carrying fake blood. Over the next few weeks, the helicopter will begin carrying O positive and O negative blood types, along with liquid plasma. New initiatives, an approach to be as cost-effective for the consumer as possible, also include carrying antibiotics and devices to see if there is bleeding under the skull.

Pilot Keith Cummings was also on hand to provide a plethora of knowledge about the site's Bell 206LA helicopter. The Bell 206LA is known as of the safest air frames in the history of helicopters, according to site personnel.

Cummings reiterated that Wetzel's site averages about 25 to 30 flights per month, an average of one flight per day. He said sometimes the site will go four or five days without a flight, but then there could be several on one day.

Cummings, a wealth of information about his craft, providing several interesting facts about his duties as pilot. He noted the helicopter travels at 130 knots and can reach Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, from New Martinsville, in about 30 minutes. Charleston is approximately 45 minutes away, and Columbus is about 50 minutes away.

The aircraft undergoes daily checks, as well as inspections every 100 and 300 hours. A blade itself costs $45,000, and blades are replaced every 2,000 hours. The helicopter's engine carries a hefty pricetag of $250,000.

It requires 2,000 hours of flight time to pilot the helicopter. Cummings, an Army pilot, said this averages about 10 years of experience.

Cummings also discussed the exciting adventure of landing the helicopter. He praised fire departments, which he said do an excellent job of setting up a landing site. However, sometimes circumstances can require a bit of creativity. Cummings noted the craft has been landed on the roadway itself. He noted previous landings on Route 7 in Ohio, Route 2 in Proctor, West Virginia, and Route 50 in the Doddridge County and Pennsboro regions.

If Cummings' credentials and experience sound impressive, there is certainly more where that came from.

Two Air Evac #78 employees - Base Pilot Supervisor Brett DeGarmo and Flight Paramedic Michael Freeman - recently celebrated career milestones. Each earned his 750th patient flight wings.

DeGarmo has been a helicopter pilot for 28 years and began working for Air Evac Lifeteam in January 2011. The company's safety initiatives were a big draw.

"We were the first company to equip all air medical bases with Night Vision Goggles," DeGarmo said. "Those are particularly helpful in our mountainous region."

Freeman joined Air Evac Lifeteam in May 2008. Before joining Air Evac, he worked for Rural Metro Ambulance.

"Being able to help people is very rewarding to me," Freeman said. "I also enjoy the expanded scope of practice and being able to provide a higher level of care than I could previously."

Notably, Air Evac's Tim Stanley earned the Region 2 Flight Paramedic title for the month for August. Stanley works part-time at Air Evac 78 and full-time for Wetzel County EMS as a paramedic and training instructor.

Air Evac Lifeteam is part of Air Medical Group Holdings, the world's largest provider of helicopter air ambulance services to communities in need of rapid medical transport to advanced health care. Air Evac flight crews, consisting of a pilot, flight nurse and flight paramedic, are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to the scene of an emergency, or provide transportation between medical facilities. For more information, please visit, or like it on Facebook.

Air Evac Lifeteam is a membership-supported air ambulance service that is part of the AirMedCare Network. AirMedCare is America's largest air medical transport membership network, providing emergency access to the highest levels of care for its 3 million subscribers. The AirMedCare Network combines the membership programs of four leading air ambulance operators: Air Evac Lifeteam, Guardian Flight, Med-Trans Corporation and REACH Air Medical Services. Together, there are more than 320 air medical bases across 38 states. For more information about memberships, visit



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