The recent decision by Carolinas HealthCare System to move a patient transport helicopter to Concord Regional Airport began nearly a year ago with a conversation between Concord's fire chief and a flight nurse, city officials said.
Concord Fire and Life Safety was preparing to move an engine company from Fire Station No. 6 at the Concord airport to its new temporary Fire Station No. 10 at Polar Tent and Harris roads, city spokesman Peter Franzese said.
The move was to better serve neighborhoods such as Cannon Crossing, Highland Creek, Moss Creek and Winding Walk, he said.
With only one firefighter left at Station No. 6, Fire Chief Randy Holloway saw an opportunity on the day a MedCenter Air flight nurse was in Concord to train firefighters on setting up landing zones.
"Since we would have just one lonely firefighter on duty at the airport, I asked if MedCenter Air might be able to better serve the area by moving a chopper from Charlotte to Concord," Holloway said in a news release. "Most of the Charlotte unit's calls were in our direction anyhow, and it would better spread out their resources, as they have other units in Rock Hill (S.C.) and Hickory."
Carolinas HealthCare agreed, and the helicopter unit moved from Charlotte/Douglas International Airport to the Concord airport in late February. The aircraft is expected to reduce response times in the area by one-third, Franzese said.
Concord Regional is the busiest general-aviation airport in North Carolina, and it's the fourth-busiest airport of any kind in the state, after only Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and Greensboro. Even so, it's much easier for the helicopter crew to get off the ground at Concord than to wait for clearance in the commercial traffic at Charlotte/Douglas, said Richard Lewis, aviation director at Concord Regional.
"When every second counts, you don't want your transport helicopter to be stuck on the ground," Lewis said.