New $5M helicopter to help patients in Martinsville

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MARTINSVILLE (WSLS10) - In Southside, a crowd of 60 gathered at the Blue Ridge Regional Airport in Martinsville for a big announcement. Martinsville and Henry County welcomed a new state of the art helicopter that provides urgent medical services to the region. The aircraft is equip with new safety features and is the only air medical helicopter that will be able to provide level one trauma care transport in the area.

Clear skies allow for ideal flying conditions. However, helicopter air ambulance pilots don't control the weather or emergencies, when a patient may only have moments.

"Patients having heart attacks and strokes, those are very time sensitive injuries," said Tony Raymond, Air Care base manager. "They need to get to high level care usually within 60 minutes."

A helicopter can get a patient to the hospital fast. From Martinsville to Roanoke or Salem it would only take 20 minutes.

The Federal Aviation Administration said 90 percent of all helicopter air ambulance mishaps are weather related. That's why when pilots hit rough air or weather, this chopper has auto pilot which helps stabilize the aircraft.

"Having an auto pilot we're able with just the touch of a couple buttons, the helicopter is flying itself which makes it a little bit safer," said relief pilot, Matthew Currin.

This new helicopter rings in at four to five million dollars and is provided by Air Methods in partnership with Air Care.

Martinsville and Henry County leaders told us it's an upgrade from the previous aircraft --and was much needed.

"With the medical training and the equipment on board the aircraft, it brings the ICU and critical care to the patient," said Raymond."

"It's a newer asset," said Blue Ridge Regional Airport Manager Jason Davis. "So, it's going to have newer technology, newer avionics, a new air-frame with a new paint job."

Covering a 125 mile radius, this helicopter will service parts of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. County leaders said this is a good investment for our region.

ORIGINAL - A big announcement in Southside - as Martinsville and Henry County welcome a new state-of-the-art helicopter to provide urgent medical services to the region.

This is the only air medical helicopter that will be able to provide level one trauma care - transporting patients to multiple hospitals.

The new technology replaces an older helicopter.

The new $5 million helicopter will also have more mapping systems and fly on autopilot.