Air Evac Will Keep Flying Even if Airport Closes

Air Evac Will Keep Flying Even if Airport Closes

By Keith E. Domke, St. Clair Missourian Editor | Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 8:00 am

Air Evac Lifeteam personnel said they have filed the proper paperwork with the Federal Aviation Administration in order to keep the emergency air service flying if the St. Clair Regional Airport closes sometime in the future.

The service has its base operations at the local airport that the city administration is trying to close in order to make room for proposed development on the 80-acre airport site.

After some questions arose about the air service’s compliance with FAA regulations, Air Evac officials recently stated the independent operation is not in violation of local FAA regulations regarding airspace and that it will be allowed to continue flying from its location if and when the local airport shuts down.

There had been some concerns raised and confusion about the future of the business that provides the emergency helicopter ambulance service to area residents. The concerns first were raised at about the same time as similar safety issues were brought up in March about the Interstate 44 North Outer Road relocation and improvement project in relation to the local airport located on the north side of the city.

For about two weeks, work was halted on the road project until the Missouri Department of Transportation could complete the proper forms regarding safety procedures concerning airspace of aircraft takeoffs and approaches. When the paperwork was completed and filed with the FAA, the project resumed as planned.

However, because of those road project issues, concerns were raised about Air Evac and its takeoffs and landings interfering with potential airport traffic and if it had all appropriate forms filed to operate. Air Evac also was told that in the event that the St. Clair airport closes, additional forms will need to be on file with the FAA so it can continue operations.

“We have been complying with FAA regulations and will continue to even if/when the airport closes,” Air Evac Lifeteam Senior Director of Flight Operations Tony Bonham recently told The Missourian.

Public Relations Manager Julie Heavrin confirmed Bonham’s statement.

“Air Evac Lifeteam is not and has not been in violation of any FAA regulations regarding our operations at the St. Clair airport,” she said. “There are a number of regulations that we must follow, and we make it a goal to be in compliance at all times.”

The airspace safety issue was brought to the FAA’s attention by an individual “who wishes to remain anonymous,” MoDOT Area Engineer Judy Wagner told The Missourian when the road project was put on hold.

Wagner would not release the name of the individual.

However, officials from MoDOT had to file about 40 copies of Form 7460-1 in order to get the road project going again. The form concerns height restrictions during and after construction in the airport’s 360-degree approach zone, which resembles a bowl and is at its lowest point at the runway and gradually eases height restrictions as it moves away from the facility.

Wagner said a separate form needed to be filed for each item that could be an invasion of the approach zone as well as for each piece of equipment that will be used during construction that potentially could interfere with an aircraft’s approach.

According to the FAA, the form deals with obstruction marking and lighting and describes the standards for marking and lighting structures such as buildings, chimneys, antenna towers, cooling towers, storage tanks, supporting structures of overhead wires and other items.

Heavrin said Air Evac has turned in Form 7480, similar to 7460 but basically adds helicopter use, to the FAA.

“It is our intention to remain at the site (St. Clair Regional Airport) and continue our operations,” Heavrin said in referring to additional paperwork that would be required by the FAA if St. Clair’s airport closes, which the city administration currently is in the process of attempting to do.

Fred Harms of the FAA said that if the airport does indeed close, the notice of landing area proposal (7480) would be required and Air Evac would need to request a designation for the helipad since “the K39 designator for St. Clair will no longer apply.”

Air Evac EMS Inc., which operates Air Evac Lifeteam, is the largest independently owned and operated membership-supported air medical service in the United States, conducting its operations through 107 mutually supporting air medical bases across 15 states.

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