Air ambulance always ready to fly into action

In 1982, when Dr. Michael Copass, ’73, was head of Emergency Services at Harborview Medical Center, he and a consortium of Seattle hospitals founded a medical air service to carry patients from the farthest reaches of the Northwest to hospitals and trauma centers.

Today, the not-for-profit air ambulance service is part of UW Medicine. It transports about 3,600 patients a year from as far off as Alaska and Montana as well as points all around Washington. High-performance helicopters, Learjets and a turboprop stand at the ready at bases in Arlington, Bellingham, Bremerton, Olympia, Seattle, Wenatchee and Yakima. Each aircraft is staffed by two flight nurses with expertise in advanced life support, trauma nursing and neonatal nursing. They work with first responders to transport critically ill and injured children and adults to facilities where they can receive the best care.

Here, nurses Janice Pilcher, left, and Kathy Pace dash across the tarmac at Boeing Field to pick up a patient.