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Medevac helicopter lands in new Front Royal home

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Capt. Skip Delo, left and flight nurse Chris Coulter, are pleased that the AirCare 4 medical evacuation helicopter has begun flying out of Front Royal-Warren County Airport. Joe Beck/Daily

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

The PHI AirCare 4 Medevac helicopter has landed at Front Royal-Warren County Airport amid high hopes that its arrival signals a new era of improved service for trauma patients in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

The 24-hour seven-days-a-week on call flight crews have already made six transport flights since their May 21 arrival at the airport. The results have pleased Capt. Skip Delo and flight nurse Chris Coulter. Both said they had been looking forward to shorter flight times in airlifting patients from trauma scenes to Winchester Medical Center and other medical facilities. So far, that is exactly what the Front Royal location is delivering, they said.

"We think it's fantastic we're here. To put it another way, we're closer to the people we're working with," Delo said, referring to patients in need of emergency air transport.

Delo said the move represented a new emphasis in placing the helicopter closer to places where patients are most likely to need it and a shift away from taking off near the medical center.

The helicopter has flown twice to Grant Memorial Hospital in Petersburg, W.Va., and once each to trauma scenes in Shenandoah, Page, and Warren counties, and once from Warren Memorial Hospital, Coulter said.

"If we were up in Winchester with the exact same flights, it would have taken longer," Coulter said of the six transport missions flown since the move to Front Royal.

The helicopter and its crews were previously based at the Winchester Regional Airport.

Pilots from AirCare 4 looking for a central location that would shorten flight times approached the management of the Front Royal airport last fall about the possibility of a move.

Their tentative moving date of March 1 was delayed more than two months by logistical problems in delivering and installing facilities for the crew quarters and operations office.
The crews occupy a spacious trailer only steps away from a hanger PHI rents from the airport.

Delo said storing the helicopter in its own hanger instead of sharing space with other aircraft in the same building is another advantage offered by the new location.

Reggie Cassagnol, the airport's manager, said he is pleased now that the crews and helicopter have arrived.

"It's a great thing to have it here," he said of AirCare 4. "It's a beautiful, good, central point for them."

Cassagnol said he is continuing to meet with flight crews to familiarize them with the airport's operating procedures and safety policies. The helicopter is the latest addition to a wide variety of aircraft using the airport, and he wants to make sure they stay out of each other's way.

"Safety is always a major concern here," Cassagnol said.

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