Sentara gets new Nightingale medical helicopter

Sentara Healthcare will christen the new Sentara Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance Friday.

The new, $7.2 million helicopter replaces one that was 25 years old. The new helicopter, the Eurocopter EC-145, was bought with financial support from communities, corporations, foundations, Sentara employees and other generous individuals as part of the "Saving Minutes, Saving Lives" campaign conducted by the Sentara Health Foundation.

The program is a money-losing venture, operating on an annual deficit of up to $650,000.

About Nightingale:

Nightingale has flown more than 16,000 missions involving critically ill and injured patients in a 125-mile radius from Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, the region’s only Level I trauma center.

About half of Nightingale’s average 700 flights per year involve inter-hospital transfers of critically ill patients from community hospitals throughout the region, who are most often flown to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.  

The other half involves scene flights for vehicle accidents, industrial accidents and a broad range of traumatic injuries ranging from a man falling off his house onto his head to a child with a lacerated liver from being kicked by a horse. 

The new Eurocopter EC-145 has more lifting capacity, longer range, higher cruising speed and state-of-the-art safety technologies including night vision equipment, weather radar, autopilot and proximity warning system than its predecessor.