"We don't fly patients out of Charleston, we fly patients into Charleston," he explained.
Helicopters stationed in Beckley and Morgantown are now equipped for instrument flying.
"We wanted the system to be anchored north and south with instrument-capable aircraft," Burley said. "We've really ramped up the technology in our aircraft."
Burley said HealthNet transports about 4,000 patients a year. In nearly 30 years of operation, he said, HealthNet has flown almost 70,000 missions without an accident.
James Dunn, HealthNet's aviation manager, said the instrument-capable helicopters will drastically increase the circumstances under which the helicopters can operate. If the weather is too bad for a conventional helicopter to fly, an instrument-equipped aircraft can plot an instrument course through the cloud cover to Yeager or another local airport.
If the pilot can see the hospital once over the target, he or she can go ahead and land at the hospital's helipad, Burley said. If not, the pilot can land at the airport and an ambulance can take the patient the rest of the way to the hospital.
Burley said HealthNet is buying new helicopters for its fleet, at a cost of about $4 million to about $7 million per aircraft. The network employs about 40 pilots.
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.