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Saving lives and limbs, classic aviation soars above an FBO’s typical mission



ClassicPAGE, Arizona – The six-year-old boy was in danger of losing both legs from a horrific boating accident when the Classic Medical Air medevac team landed on the shores of Lake Powell in their specially equipped Bell 407 helicopter, carrying a pilot, flight nurse and paramedic well-trained in medical rescues.

For most fixed base operators (FBOs), managing fuel deliveries and demanding customers are stressful enough. But for Classic Aviation and its Classic Air Medical team, the stakes may be higher: the life and limbs of trauma victims – like that young boy’s – are often in peril. For years, the Phillips 66® Aviation FBO provided the sole medivac helicopter serving an immense swath of remote, rugged Colorado Plateau wilderness as vast as Connecticut.

Classic Air Medical and its medical evacuations are integral to the history of Classic Aviation – the longest-running FBO at Page Municipal Airport in Page, Arizona. What began as an air medical rescue service evolved into a full-fledged FBO when the City of Page required the facility to become a licensed FBO to store fuel on site for mounting medivac demand.

From their base near sprawling Lake Powell, Classic Medical has made a difference in the lives of many patients and family members, including many suffering traumatic injuries. With more than 3 million tourists trapsing, boating, backpacking and biking through a sweeping recreational destination, accidents and illness happen frequently. Classic also transports and rescues patients from across the mammoth Navajo Nation.

“When you’re severely hurt 150 miles from the nearest interstate, dealing with a traumatic injury becomes a matter of life or limb,” explains Matt Stein, Chief Operations Officer for Classic Air Medical, an Intermountain Healthcare company. “In 1988 Classic began with its first helicopter. There were awful traumas occurring among Lake Powell boaters, but it would take four hours or more to get to the nearest trauma center.”

Stein is well acquainted with stressful situations. He commanded an attack helicopter along the East German border during the Cold War when geopolitical tensions ran high before the Berlin Wall tumbled.

Once Stein joined Classic Air Medical, he piloted helicopters and medivac missions for 29 years until retiring as a pilot two years ago. All told, Stein flew 3,300 medical transports for Classic.