DANVILLE - After an extensive two-year application and development process, Geisinger Life Flight has been awarded an air carrier certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The air carrier certificate will allow Geisinger Health System to directly operate the aircraft assets it leases and owns. In addition, the system will directly employ its own pilots, mechanics and aviation support personnel - a process previously done through contracted air-services vendors.
"The internal structure of the program will be very different," said Jerry Splitt, Geisinger Life Flight program manager. "Employees in key aviation leadership positions, including a director of aviation operations, chief pilot and director of aviation maintenance, will be on-site working exclusively for Life Flight every day. These leaders will work very closely with local FAA officials in Harrisburg who will provide regulatory oversight of the program."
From left, Jerry Splitt, Life Flight program manager; Wayne O’Connor, chief pilot; Jeff Gazey, director of maintenance; and Richard Smith, director of operations, with Eric Manchon, Rick Thomas, Frank Gurish and Ron Forysth, all of the FAA.
Since the inception of Life Flight in 1981, the program has operated under contracted air carrier certificates, most recently La.-based Era Med LLC, which operates a satellite support facility in Coatesville. The move toward the Life Flight air carrier certificate demonstrates Geisinger's ownership and investment in the critical care air transport program.
"The new internal structure will not affect or disrupt service to patients or healthcare professionals and will only further enhance the program to provide the best service to those in need," Splitt said.
Averaging 2,600 flights per year, Life Flight operates 24 hours a day with a fleet of six helicopters from air bases in Danville, State College, Avoca, Williamsport and Minersville. Each twin-engine helicopter is equipped with auto-pilot navigation and night vision equipment to ensure a safe flight day and night.