November 17, 2000

New LifeFlight helipad to open in December

Featured Image

A LifeFlight helicopter flies over the new helipad which is under construction on the roof of VUMC. The new helipad, scheduled to open in mid-December, is expected to save critical minutes on response time due to its convenient location. (photo by Anne Rayner)

New LifeFlight helipad to open in December

Crucial minutes will be saved when LifeFlight moves to the new $4.5 million helipad in mid-December.

The new helipad, located on top of the Medical Center, will house pilots and nurses, allowing for quicker responses to emergencies.

“It should cut anywhere from five to seven minutes off our current response time,” explained Linda Passini, program manager for LifeFlight. “And it’s close to the trauma unit.”

The structure will include offices, a conference room, an area for the pilots and flight nurses, and space for flight mechanics.

The new facility is the fourth home for LifeFlight, which started in 1984 in a parking lot near the hospital. Building the new facility on top of the medical center has been an engineering challenge. Four columns were extended from the top of the medical center building to support two large steel trusses for the base. Earl Swensson Associates and Centex Rogers were involved in the planning and construction.

“The project took a tremendous amount of structural calculations,” explained Ann McGauran, an architect and project manager for Vanderbilt Space and Facilities Planning. “It’s much like a bridge with the truss frame.”

The helipad, with offices and quarters located below, will hold up to 22,000 pounds. It includes a state-of-the-art foam fire suppression system, which can flood the entire deck with foam in three minutes or less.

Relocating the helipad became necessary due to construction on the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“As soon as the first crane goes up to build the new Children’s Hospital our flight path to the current helipad is made non operable,” said Dr. John Morris Jr., professor of Surgery and director of the Division of Trauma. “This isn’t a Vanderbilt problem; it’s an FAA problem. Without moving the helipad we would be faced with closing the program, and we consider keeping the program open essential to the community.”