AirLife establishes new base at Habersham Airport

  • Joe Pardue, Air Methods area manager, talks to the assembled guests during the AirLife ribbon cutting on Wednesday morning.
    Joe Pardue, Air Methods area manager, talks to the assembled guests during the AirLife ribbon cutting on Wednesday morning.

   Community leaders and first responders attended a ribbon cutting Wednesday morning for AirLife Georgia 2, a division of Air Methods, which now has a base at the Habersham County Airport. 

   AirLife Georgia 2 will provide air medical services 24-7, 365 days a year, helping to improve response time by approximately 20 minutes. The base will be staffed by 14 crewmembers, including pilots, flight nurses, flight paramedics and mechanics, and it will operate a Eurocopter EC130 helicopter. 

   The new base will help expand air medical services in North Georgia, including Habersham, White, Stephens, Rabun, Jackson, Franklin and Hart counties, as well as portions of South Carolina and Western North Carolina bordering Georgia. Services include critical care air medical transport staffed with both a critical care flight nurse and flight paramedic on each transport and medical services and specialty equipment comparable to Intensive Care Unit services available at larger tertiary care hospitals.

   “This was a long time coming,” said Joe Pardue, Air Methods area manager. “Marcus and I were planning this well over two years, and I did want to thank some people in particular. Zack Lancaster is CBL (clinical base lead) here at the base. He’s been doing a great job. I really appreciate him, really appreciate all of the crew that’s here. They were the ones that were involved in moving this base from Gainesville up to here. They did a lot of work behind the scenes to make this happen. I really appreciate the team here at AirLife, too.”

   Pardue also thanked Habersham County Emergency Services Director Chad Black for being instrumental in helping to put key pieces together to make the move happen from Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville. He also thanked County Manager Phil Sutton for paving the way for the partnership such as with the remodeling of the old terminal. 

   AirLife began using the old terminal building as their base station to serve Northeast Georgia with air ambulance services in July. 

   “With the completion of the new airport terminal building in January 2019, the former airport terminal building [was] vacated and renovated by our county facility maintenance staff at minimal cost,” Sutton said. “A lease was signed between Habersham County and Air Methods Corporation to house a helicopter and medical staff to provide air ambulance services. AirLife Georgia will lease the old terminal building as a base of operations for their air ambulance business for the next five, with an option to renew for an additional five years.”

   Sutton said this will generate revenue for the airport through lease payments and jet fuel sales. He also said AirLife has stated this new location has greatly expanded the business activity in the North Georgia region.

   “Most importantly, Habersham County is now home to this vital medical service which will enhance the public safety response to residences and visitors to our community,” Sutton said.  

   Air Methods and local community and hospital leaders recognized the growing need for an air medical service that would be able to serve Habersham and the surrounding area after NGMC expanded to a level two trauma center in 2014.  Black was instrumental in that expansion. He previously worked for Air Methods for 16 years. 

   “We had seen in previous moves that helicopters should be where the patients are, not where the tertiary centers that care for them are located,” Black said. “This puts the asset where it’s actually needed, versus the asset ‘helicopter’ having to respond out from the city or trauma center to the patients. 

   “About two years ago, Air Methods came to visit us and the discussions were started again to relocate and they had determined, based on prior planning, call request and locations of their other bases, Habersham was still the best location to relocate the base,” he said.   

   Marcus Lindsey, Air Methods business development manager, said it is truly an honor and privilege for them to be a part of the Habersham community and to work alongside their first responder partners and local hospital partners to expand affordable access to care to all of Northeast Georgia.