CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- An intermittent drizzle fell over Charleston on Monday, and Yeager Airport was socked in by a layer of low-lying clouds that hung down almost to the level of the tarmac.
Ordinarily, HealthNet helicopters can't fly in that kind of weather. But a HealthNet chopper from Beckley was flying a patient rescue mission, cutting through the low-hanging soup on instruments.
HealthNet Aeromedical Services President Clinton Burley said HealthNet now has two rescue helicopters equipped and certified for instrument flying.
Under ordinary circumstances, HealthNet pilots can only fly when they can see where they're going. But Burley said the new helicopters allow pilots to fly in cloud cover, following their instruments.
"On a day like today, we wouldn't have been able to fly patients," Burley said Monday, while showing off one of HealthNet's new choppers on the murky, drizzly day at Yeager Airport.
"This will undoubtedly save lives."
Founded in 1986, HealthNet operates nine rescue helicopters in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. Six of the choppers are in West Virginia, where they serve the CAMC hospital system, Cabell-Huntington Hospital and West Virginia University Healthcare system.
HealthNet helicopters are stationed in Beckley, Ripley, Hamlin, Buckhannon, Morgantown and Martinsburg, strategically located to be able to access most parts of the state quickly.
Although many of the helicopters end up taking their seriously injured patients to CAMC, Burley said the helicopters are not stationed in Charleston.