Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Fri, Sept. 18

Native Six helicopter leaves Winslow

This week the helicopter of Native American Air Ambulance service is leaving Winslow for a contract with the Buckeye medical center. "We know they want us," Bob Jones, the spokesman for Native Air said.

Native Air will continue its service with fixed wing planes from the Winslow-

Lindberg Airport. The helicopter service, which was the only one between Flagstaff and Gallup, New Mexico, was set up in Winslow last summer and had proved both dependable and civic minded. Native Air provided search and rescue service for missing persons and raffled free rides at the Baca Rough Stock Rodeo Series to raise money for the Thermal Imager for the Winslow Fire Department. Fire Department personnel said that their reliable service will be missed.

Jones told The Winslow Mail that the decision to accept the Buckeye contract was made because Native Air could no longer land at Winslow Memorial Hospital. Jones said that carrying patients from WMH represented forty percent of their business.

The hospital has taken a 30-day trial with Medical Air Transport, who park their helicopter on the hospital pad. Although some hospital personnel said that a second helicopter could land on the hospital pad, both Native Air and Winslow Fire Department personnel said that other helicopters approaching the hospital have had to land in the street or on the LDS Church parking lot. The Native Air helicopter had to pick up one patient last week by providing ambulance transport from the hospital to the airport. This is the traditional method for fixed wing aircraft, but has not been necessary before for the helicopter.

WMH administrator Anita Warboys said that she received a call from Neil Kelly, owner of Medical Air Transport (MAT), July 28 and accepted his offer to provide direct helicopter service from the hospital. She checked with Payson, where the other MAT helicopter is stationed and they said the MAT service was satisfactory. In Winslow the MAT helicopter was out of service part of the week it arrived, but remained on the hospital pad. The contract mechanic had to come up from Phoenix to service it.

Since the agreement was directly with the hospital, Warboys said there was no necessity to check with Native Air or city entities. The offer also came after the hospital board meeting July 26 and was promptly implemented, so it was not discussed at a board meeting.

Kelly resides in the states of Washington and California. MAT has a contract billing office in Show Low, which is where the helicopter now in Winslow was based for the previous 30 days on a trial basis. Kelly said that this helicopter was acquired from Life Rescue in their going-out-of business sale. When asked where the Arizona headquarters for the MAT corporation is, Kelly said, "pretty much in Payson."

Kelly said that MAT had gotten eight or nine calls in the time between their arrival July 29 and the date of the interview, August 10. He said that this was an adequate number of calls, but later clarified that as a minimum. Warboys said she had explained to Kelly that summer is the slow season. Kelly said he expects to keep his equipment in Winslow beyond the 30-day trial period.

MAT does not pay the hospital any fees for landing or parking there, according to Warboys. Kelly is keeping a single crew of three at the Adobe Inn for the time being, but will have to seek less expensive quarters for as many as twelve crew members (four crews of three) if the service remains.

Native Air indicated that they had been pleased with their reception in Winslow and their working relationship with the AMS ambulance crews. "Winslow has a great resource there," Jones stated. Native Air would consider coming back if the city requested it, Jones said. This remains an alternative if the MAT service does not remain or proves to have increased maintenance problems. The difference is that when Native Air Six was stationed in Winslow last year, the financial risk was their company's and they have spent the year building up the business without demanding a profit from the helicopter. The fixed wing service has been so much in demand that Native Air added a second plane and crew this spring. These crews and their crew quarters remain at the airport.

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