Helicopter ambulance company breaks ground on $1M Wis. hangar
Flight For Life established a base of operations in Burlington last year
The Journal Times, Racine
BURLINGTON, Wis. — One year after expanding to Burlington Municipal Airport, the Flight For Life helicopter ambulance group is ready to put down roots.
Flight For Life executives held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday for a new estimated $1 million airport hangar to establish a permanent base of operations in western Racine County.
The private nonprofit company has been operating since November in temporary leased facilities at the city-owned airport.
Leif Erickson, executive director of Flight For Life, said he is excited to be building a permanent home after the past year reaffirmed his confidence in the location.
" Burlington is the perfect spot," he said.
Burlington Mayor Jeannie Hefty joined the groundbreaking ceremony and cheered the new hangar project.
"It's huge to say that we have Flight For Life here," she said.
Hefty said Flight For Life has received strong support in the community, and she is happy to see the company investing in a new facility and making a long-term commitment. The mayor noted that the helicopter ambulance can deliver faster service locally while operating from the airport.
The company plans to move into the new hanger around Jan. 1 if construction proceeds as expected.
Based in Waukesha, Flight For Life established a base of operations in Burlington last year to improve service in areas generally south of Interstate 94. By eliminating the need to dispatch a crew from Waukesha, officials said they would be able to respond about 20 minutes faster to patients in and around Racine County.
A second new hangar is under construction in the Washington County community of Hartford, which will become the northern base.
The current headquarters at Waukesha's Crites Field airport will remain a center for dispatch and administration.
The nonprofit organization works with police agencies and other first responders, dispatching its helicopters when needed to speed transport of patients from traffic accidents, cardiac incidents and other critical situations.
Officials projected that they would handle about 300 calls for service annually from Burlington. Erickson said about 180 calls for service have been received just since January.
A twin-engine helicopter capable of reaching speeds of 160 mph is stationed in Burlington.
Officials said the new hangar will be 9,000 square feet in size, with live-in quarters for the helicopter crew on the second floor. The facility is projected to cost about $1 million.
The hangar will be built by Commercial Construction Consultants LLC of Burlington, and will be owned by a third party identified as Burlington Development Group Inc.
The base at Burlington Municipal Airport is staffed around-the-clock by a helicopter pilot, a critical care paramedic and a critical care nurse.
Chief flight nurse Nick Lehouillier joined Wednesday's festivities, saying he and his crew mates look forward to moving into the new hangar and settling into Burlington.
"It's our home," Lehouillier said. "We can call it our home."
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