Air Evac Lifeteam held their ground breaking ceremony on Monday, Dec. 2, to celebrate their official landing in Altus, set to build their permanent base at the Altus/Quartz Mountain Regional Airport. Representatives from Air Evac Lifeteam, City of Altus Officials, Altus Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, Airport personnel, and supportive community members gathered at the future building site where the medi-flight service is set to establish their new base facility.
“Were excited about being here and getting to a permanent location and just being able to give you access to an aircraft here,” said Air Evac Lifeteam Regional Director of Base Operations, Jay Chapelle, who oversees 23 Air Evac bases. According to Chapelle their goal is to have an entire staff comprised of local workers to provide support to surrounding health-care facilities in a 70 mile radius, as well as work with local emergency services including Jackson County EMS, Altus Fire Department and Jackson County Memorial Hospital.
Currently, Air Evac in Jackson County employs four pilots, three flight nurses, and three paramedics, and will add about five more for the crew to be fully staffed, including a mechanic and a membership specialist,
Air Evac Program Director Kelly Dillon stated, “They are there 24-7. They live there during their 24-hour shift and then they are off for 24 hours, and on for 24.”
Regional Director Air Evac Flight Operations, Chuck Adkins, responsible for all aviation assets, commented on the overall process.
“Daniel [Adams - Airport Manager] has been an incredible help to us as far as coordination and providing hangar space for us and fuel and we’re excited to finally have a facility that we’ll be able to build right here on the airport itself,” Adkins said. “He’s been a major help with the FAA and getting everything approved to bring it online.” Adkins also thanked Burl Winters for providing his property and ranch as their temporary base. “We’re getting pretty attached to it, but eventually we’ll have to move out of there,” he said.
“They’ve been very, very good tenants,” Winters added about Air Evac.
Adkins also thanked Altus Air Force Base for allowing the use of their air traffic patterns, for their cooperation and keeping everyone safe through separate operation of those flight patterns.
Adkins then introduced the pilots, flight nurses, and paramedics on staff who are are from the surrounding area, including Stephanie Bradford, R.N., a flight nurse from Altus.
City of Altus Mayor David Webb thanked Air Evac for choosing Altus regardless of any issues that came up while selecting a permanent base, specifically a proposal to build on a tract of property on N. Park Lane that resulted in the upset of nearby residents and nursing home facility.
“We are thankful for any business that comes to town but when it’s one that provides a service that Air Evac does, we are real thankful for that,” Mayor Webb said. “What we didn’t hear through all of that location issues was the support for Air Evac. That was never in question. The community thought very strongly that we needed this type of service in our community. I think this is going to be a fantastic addition to our community. I think this location is going to work perfectly with our airport. Daniel and his staff are going to provide exceptional support. I’m certainly appreciative of Burl being able to slide right in a give them a temporary home. I think that helped solidify the location for Altus.”
Construction is set to begin this week according to Program Director Kelly Dillon, with an anticipated finish date by the middle to end of February. Building plans include a helipad, hangar, fueling pad, and crew quarters.
Nearest Air Evac base locations include Elk City, Duncan, and Wichita Falls, Texas, and are available to assist in medi-flight operations when needed.