ROCHESTER, Minn. – As Mayo Clinic plans for inevitable growth over the next several years, they are taking one of the first steps by preparing for an increase in the need for medical transportation.
Mayo recently unveiled a new medical airplane and gave KIMT News 3 a look inside the “flying critical care facility” which is housed in their renovated hangar at the Rochester International Airport.
The Beechcraft King Air 350C twin-engine turboprop airplane will be used to transport high-risk patients to Mayo Clinic locations around the country. It’s estimated that about 80% of Mayo’s patients live within 500 miles of Rochester, so the plane will be utilized for both long-distance and short flights.
One of Mayo Clinic’s Pilots, Brian Fiek says the plane will also serve as a backup for the helicopter.
“If the weather is bad on a day like today, we can fly in the snow, we can fly in the ice,” he explains.
The $8.5 million craft is customized to accommodate for medical operations and is believed to be the only medical plane of its kind in the lower 48 states. It has two different doors; a regular air stair door and a cargo door that is about 5 ft wide.
“It makes it very easy to load the people in and out, we have an electric loader that we can use as well to help the stretchers get back down out of the airplane,” adds Fiek.
Mayo has 10 pilots, including Fiek. They are all Captain qualified and come from various backgrounds including military, airline, and air medical. There will always be two pilots and at least two medical personal on board.
Another interesting feature is an infrared camera located on the front of the plane. Fiek says it will allow them to see any animals or vehicles that may be on the runway day or night. He says it will be especially helpful when landing in rural airports.
A Mayo spokesperson tells us they have had the plane for little over a month and have already used it to transport patients.