The History of OSF Life Flight

The first transfer of a patient by helicopter in Central Illinois occurred on January 10, 1967. This flight was also historic, in that it was the first transfer of a prematurely delivered infant from one hospital to another by air in this state. The caregiver was one of The Sisters from the Third Order of St. Francis. The helicopter utilized was the Peoria Journal Star Newspaper aircraft, a Hughes 300, which provided two seats, one for the pilot and one for a passenger. The infant was transferred in a small box held on the Sister's lap. This infant was transferred rapidly and safely. The Journal Star Helicopter continued to facilitate the transfers of premature infants utilizing the Hughes 300 into the early 1970s. The Illinois Department of Transportation Helicopter began assuming the transport role of the increasing transfer requests of the critically ill or injured with its Bell 206 Jet Ranger, then Bell 206 Long Ranger, in the 1970s.

=Images= | 13y.gifDue to increased need, in June 1984, OSF Life Flight officially formalized. With a total team comprised of three registered nurses each working a 24 hour shift at a time, they became the first dedicated transport nurses for OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. A Bell 206 Long Ranger was the helicopter used, and was provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The helicopter was maintained off-site at the Peoria Journal Star Newspaper hangar initially, and then relocated to Byerly Aviation at the Greater Peoria Airport. This aircraft is a single engine, single pilot helicopter capable of transporting one patient and two attendants. Because the State of Illinois Helicopter was not dedicated completely to EMS missions, it wasn't readily available when transfer requests were received.

Recognizing the importance of the transport of the critically injured patient during the first hour following injury, and increasing numbers of transport requests, Saint Francis Medical Center leased its first fully dedicated helicopter in October 1986. Again, a Bell 206 Long Ranger was the helicopter leased. It was leased from Omniflight Helicopters based in Janesville, Wisconsin. During this time period, multiple other flight programs were starting throughout the U.S., and the rapid growth of helicopter programs have now expanded to include over 275 air transport programs, operating approximately 800 aircraft at some 650 bases.

=Images= | old35v.gifIn October 1989, OSF Life Flight upgraded to a twin-engine, helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76 leased from Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. This aircraft was replaced in September 2002 when OSF Aviation, LLC was formed and purchased two Bell 230 aircraft. At that time OSF Healthcare System owned the aircraft, with CJ Systems Aviation Group of Pittsburg, PA supplying EMS Pilots and maintenance crew. Two additional aircraft were acquired in 2006 for future use.

=Images= | bell230.gifIn October of 2006, OSF Aviation, LLC became the aviation operator for OSF Life Flight. The company provides aircraft, pilots, and maintenance and aviation management personnel to OSF Healthcare system facilities. In the summer of 2007 a new aeromedical operations center opened at Greater Peoria Regional Airport. The facility houses OSF Life Flight and OSF Aviation operations personnel under one roof. The hangar is dedicated to Dr. Stuart Roberts, a pioneer in medical helicopter service.

The four American Eurocopter EC 145 helicopters housed within the facility were a much needed upgrade in the summer of 2012. OSF Aviation also has its own Part 135 Certificate from the FAA.

We work diligently to provide excellent, quality care and service to our patients and our referral network. We go forward with support and renewed commitment to those communities where our presence can make a difference. Through our ongoing relationships with EMS providers, referring hospitals, nurses and physicians in our region we hope to make a difference.