As a former Los Alamos county councilor and candidate for the Dist. 43 New Mexico House of Representative, Geoff Rodgers has heard it all when he has answered his phone.
But a call that he answered as a senior pilot and base manager for Classic Air Medical is one that has really stuck with him.
During Tuesday’s Rotary of Los Alamos Club meeting at Cottonwoods on the Green restaurant, Rodgers said the caller asked him if he was, in fact, Geoff Rodgers and if he flew that “red and white bird the other night.” When Rodgers confirmed he was the pilot, the caller said, “thank you, you saved my life.”
Classic Air Medical opened its Los Alamos base in March and it has already made an impact on the community. Rodgers explained the company initially offered scenic tours of Bryce Canyon but its purpose changed when the National Parks Service asked if the company could provide medical air evacuations.
Due to this demand, the family-owned business changed in 1988. It offered one helicopter, one pilot and a medical crew of two basic level Emergency Medical Technicians.
Rodger emphasized that, “We didn’t just show up with a helicopter one day.” Today, he said, Classic Air Medical has nine bases throughout the west including Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. In Los Alamos, the company offers a Bell 407 helicopter and a fixed-wing service. It offers medical equipment found in a hospital’s intensive care unit including a cardiac monitor, a defibrillator and medications. “We have everything Los Alamos Medical Center’s ER has except imaging,” he said.
The helicopter is staffed with a pilot, a registered nurse and a paramedic. The crew can transport a patient from Los Alamos Medical Center in Los Alamos to the rooftop of the hospital in Albuquerque in 26 minutes.
In addition to providing medical transport, Rodgers said Classic Air Medical also provides search and rescue services.
When asked how business was doing, Rodgers said, “We’ve been able to keep the lights on.” He explained a minimum of 10 flights a month is needed to keep the business open; this “magic number” has been reached in the last few months. He added, during April and May, the monthly number of flights reached 15.
Entities within the community also have embraced Classic Air. “We have an extremely good working relationship with Los Alamos Medical Center and the Los Alamos Fire Department,” Rodgers said.
Also, the community has embraced the services. The helicopter can be seen stationed at the Los Alamos Airport, although it will eventually be moved to the helipad at LAMC. Rodgers said its current location is a great public relations tool. People are referring to it as “our helicopter.”
“We say thank you to the community for adopting us,” Rodgers said.