What Is Life Flight?

Life Flight is a nonprofit medical air transport service that services the Pacific Northwest and Montana. It is the largest organization of its kind in the United States as of 2015, providing transport for patients who need rapid transit to a hospital or who cannot be otherwise transported from a remote region quickly enough. Life Flight largely relies on helicopters for its mission, though the organization also owns four fixed-wing aircraft and a fleet of ground vehicles.

Life Flight was started in 1978 as Emanuel Life Flight and provided aerial medical transportation for the Legacy Emanuel hospital system using a single helicopter. As the program expanded, Life Flight eventually merged with the AirCare service of the Providence Health System to form the Life Flight organization as it exists today, though Life Flight was still administered by Emanuel until 2006. Life Flight rapidly expanded after becoming independent and moved from its origins in Oregon to cover Washington, Idaho and Montana by 2015.

As of 2015, the Life Flight helicopter fleet is composed of 19 AgustaWestland "Koala" helicopters modified to provide air ambulance services to two patients simultaneously. The helicopters also have night vision and satellite navigation capabilities to allow operation under adverse conditions. In addition to its standard air ambulance helicopters, the organization also owns one twin-engine AgustaWestland AW109E helicopter capable of operating on instrumented flight for use on low-level flight routes.