On Monday, area Director with AirEvac, Justin Kinkaid, announced to hospital President and CEO, Brian Whitfield, and Idabel City Mayor, Craig Young, that the company was reassigning a Bell 206 helicopter to join the current helicopter stationed at the hospital. Kinkaid said in a call Monday that the newly assigned chopper would be housed at a hangar that is leased from the city at the Idabel Airport.
In the call, Kinkaid said that AirEvac officials met and collectively seen the need for additional assets in McCurtain County. The hospital flies a number of patients from the hospital to other area hospitals such as Oklahoma City, Dallas and Shreveport. Several years ago, in a partnership that has saved hundreds of lives, AirEvac built a helipad and hangar at the hospital campus and a helicopter is housed there constantly. With the anticipated construction of a new hospital at the airport, Kinkaid said it made sense to place the new asset there.
City mayor Craig Young worked with a contractor as well as Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2023 to resurface the Idabel Airport runways. Hundreds of thousands of dollars was spent on the airport, new hangar doors and lighting, just to name a few.
Mayor Young was relentless in getting the airport reopened after what was slated to be a 90-day project lasted for over 6 months.
Mayor Young, a vocal supporter of our hospital, healthcare in the area and a new hospital said Monday that the airport is "ninety-nine percent complete." Kinkaid said he would like to see better internet service there and Mayor Young agreed.
Hospital president and CEO, Brian Whitfield, had this to say:
"For over two years I've had the honor to work with Craig (Mayor Young) on a couple of projects such as a back-to-school bash he sponsored, the airport reopening as quickly as possible and listening to suggestions to make our hospital more customer-service oriented, etc" Whitfield said. "The Mayor loves this town and the people and whether it was the pride he's shown in bettering our towns airport, the water infrastructure, buying much needed equipment for city employees - or suggesting how we could improve things at the hospital - it's been a pleasure to work with him."
Whitfield continued, "Justin Kinkaid is no exception. He's committed to this county and providing a much needed service. Our hearts are broken by the recent news that Justin lost three careflight employees in a crash this past weekend and we mourn with them as AirEvac has become family to us."
"This new chopper will only add to our ability to partner in saving lives." Whitfield said.
The new helicopter is slated to arrive the second week of March, 2024. The hospital says the arrival in March is right on time for the 2024 Eclipse that is expected to draw anywhere from 60,000 to 250,000 visitors to our area when on April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will occur.