Erlanger's Life Force helicopter will no longer be based in Chattanooga

Helicopter to be relocated to Cleveland airport starting in January

Life Force helicopter

Erlanger Health System is preparing to move its hospital-based Life Force helicopter from its main campus in downtown Chattanooga to the new Cleveland airport next year.

Robbie Tester, administrator of Erlanger's Life Force, said Monday that Life Force 1, now based atop Erlanger's 3rd Street hospital in Chattanooga, will move in January to a new $600,000 hangar being built at the Cleveland Regional Jetport.

"A permanent base in Cleveland will allow us to provide faster aeromedical services to Erlanger's main hospital in downtown Chattanooga for the citizens and visitors in Hamilton County and Bradley County, as well as Meigs, McMinn, Rhea, Sequatchie and Bledsoe Counties," Tester said.

Med-Trans Corp., the Dallas-based air carrier that took over Erlanger's Life Force program under a 10-year lease agreement in 2008, broke ground Monday on its new Cleveland facility. Last month, Life Force added a fifth helicopter in Middle Tennessee, based at the Winchester, Tenn., airport.

photo Heather Wilson returns equipment to Life Force 1 after a call.

Erlanger will soon dispatch Life Force helicopters owned by Med-Trans from five locations outside of Hamilton County - Calhoun and Blue Ridge in Georgia and Sparta, Winchester and Cleveland in Tennessee.

"By stationing aircraft in the field to transport patients to Erlanger in Chattanooga, we can arrive on the scene much more quickly and begin administering critical care to the patient," Tester said.

Life Force began operations at Erlanger in December 1988. In the last fiscal year ended June 30, Life Force transported more than 2,143 patients via helicopter to and from Erlanger hospitals.

Med Trans equips the Life Force fleet with Airbus EC-135 helicopters and Bell 407 helicopters.

Erlanger President Kevin Spiegel said the new Cleveland hangar "will allow us to arrive on the scene more quickly and transport trauma and seriously ill pediatric and adult patients to Erlanger - the region's Level 1 Trauma Center.

The Erlanger Health System has five Tennessee-based medical campuses, including the region's only children's hospital and Level 1 Trauma Center. Erlanger is the nation's seventh largest public hospital system.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.