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Highlights | 40 years of lifesaving flights

  • Airlift Northwest provides air medical transport for critically ill and injured patients.
  • With its fully equipped fleet, Airlift flies 3,600 patients per year from nine bases in the region.
  • Providing ICU-level care in the air, Airlift has in-flight transfusions that have the potential to improve outcomes for patients.

Airlift Northwest was founded in 1982 by Michael Copass, MD, with the goal of providing lifesaving care to anyone, anywhere in our region. Since then, Airlift has been providing air medical transport for critically ill and injured infants, children and adults and bringing the expertise of UW Medicine into the air and into action.

“It is an extreme honor to be celebrating Dr. Copass’ innovative idea to form an academic air medical service for UW Medicine. Not only are we bringing two flight nurses and often a flight physician to calls, but we are also providing access to the rural parts of the WWAMI region,” says Jeff Richey, RN, MHA, FACHE, executive director of Airlift Northwest.

To celebrate, here are four fun facts to know about Airlift.

Flying 3,600 patients per year

The unexpected happens every day — and when it does, Airlift is there. Each year, Airlift flies roughly 3,600 patients from Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, offering in-flight emergency care in the critical period before reaching a hospital.

In 40 years, Airlift has transported over 100,000 patients to hospitals throughout the region.

Fully equipped fleet

Airlift Northwest has six rotor wing (helicopters) and four fixed wing (planes) throughout its bases.

Airlift’s fixed wing planes, the Pilatus PC-12NG, fly at 292 mph and have a range of 800 miles. This plane has anti-icing capabilities which allow it to operate during inclement weather. It often backs up the rotary wing fleet when the weather is a factor.

They also have a Lear 45 Xr Jet based in Juneau that has a range of 2,300 miles and can fly at 51,000 feet.

Airlift’s fleet utilizes Airbus H -135 helicopters, which fly at 156 mph, have a range of 340 miles and are equipped to care for neonatal, pediatric and adult patients of all types, including bariatric.

Providing in-flight transfusions

Often referred to as a flying ICU, Airlift Northwest provides aircraft equipment that’s typically only available in hospitals, including balloon pumps, isolettes, blood and plasma on every flight. In-flight transfusions are proven to save lives and benefit patient outcomes, plus Airlift partners with Bloodworks Northwest and Harborview Medical center to create a sustainable model for the local blood bank supply.

Take off from nine bases

Airlift Northwest has nine bases that serve the patients in our region:

  • Arlington, WA
  • Bellingham, WA
  • Bremerton, WA
  • Davenport, WA (New)
  • Juneau, Alaska
  • Olympia, WA
  • Pasco, WA (New)
  • Wenatchee, WA
  • Yakima, WA

Airlift flies wherever first responders and care providers decide the patient needs to go for care. With two new bases — one in Davenport that opened summer 2022 and one in Pasco that opened in September 2021 — Airlift is able to reach more local areas in a quicker time.

Bonus Fact: Did you know you can access a discounted Airlift Northwest membership?

Membership is $48 for UW and UW Medicine employees and is also discounted for hospital staff, EMS or first responders. Memberships are $60 annually for the general public. Learn more or enroll and renew your membership.

Read more about Airlift Northwest’s 40 years of lifesaving care.