Since 1998 the two-tone brown Air Evac helicopter had been a familiar site at its home at the airport. Prior to that the service operated for a short time from a field adjacent to the St. Francois County Ambulance District service building off Wallace Road.
Now the lifeteam service will relocate to a field east of U.S. 67 just south of Farmington. Julie Heavrin, publicity coordinator for Air Evac, said the company prefers to have its own base instead of being dependent on a regional or private airport.
Air Evac currently has 36 bases serving 10 states. That includes maintenance and fueling centers in Oklahoma City, Okla.; Little Rock, Ark.; St. Louis; Nashville, Tenn.; Springfield, Ill.; and Louisville, Ken. In addition to its fleet of helicopters the company operates a fixed-wing (airplane) air ambulance service from its base in Liberal, Kan.
Heavrin said Air Evac traditionally owns its bases and purchases its own fuel from a supplier. Both of those methods of operation conflict with the current airport location. The city of Farmington, which owns the regional airport, doesn’t allow third party vendors to have fuel on the site. Furthermore, the city cannot sell a tract of land to an outside service provider – only lease airport property.
City Administrator Greg Beavers informed Air Evac recently of a need to discontinue its lease agreement. The city is working on an airport expansion project which will require the removal of existing hangars and buildings. That will also mean eliminating the current small airport terminal building, a repair and maintenance building and – more importantly for Air Evac – the trailer and hangar that houses the on-duty crew and aircraft.
Plans call for new hangars and a new terminal building to be built further back from the runway. The new structures will be located on the industrial park side of the tarmac.
Heavrin said Air Evac saw this change as an opportunity to be more in control of its interest in the area. A new modular office has already been purchased and moved to the new location, and a fuel tank was installed recently. Work is continuing on completing a landing pad and metal hangar building.
The service intends to relocate to its new home during the week of Oct. 27. An open house event will be planned for sometime in November.
As for the local operation, Air Evac employs 13 pilots, nurses and technicians. Overall, the company employs more than 700 people across its entire service area. Founded in 1985 in West Plains, Mo., the company is licensed to operate in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Alabama, Indiana and Texas.