Feb. 14, 2020

Patients in rural communities would be cut off from life-saving treatment, if not for Montana’s network of airports and general aviation, declared Randy Laird, manager of the MedFlight Air Ambulance for the Billings Clinic, in a guest column that appeared in several Montana publications.

“It is easy to understand the immense value that general aviation brings to emergency medical care when you consider some of the challenges that rural communities in Montana and the region face when it comes to medical access,” he wrote. “For one, many of our smaller towns do not have the resources for specialized care at their local hospital or medical clinic, so the nearest facility to effectively treat more complex health problems may be hours away, in Billings or Denver.

“Take the town of Glendive, for example. If a patient is experiencing an emergency cardiac arrest that requires specialized care, they would be over 215 miles and about a three and a half-hour drive away from the closest clinic that can provide it, here in Billings,” he wrote. “However, general aviation aircraft allows that same patient to be transported in under two hours.”

And bringing life-saving care to people around the state wouldn’t be possible without Montana’s more than 128 public-use airports, he added.

Laird also discussed jobs in aviation and the workforce shortage.

“Over the next 20 years, it’s estimated that we will need 212,000 new pilots and 193,000 new maintenance technicians just in North America,” he wrote. “Luckily there are many resources available to help raise awareness about the importance of this sector to our economy and rural communities in particular, as well as to encourage younger generations to pursue careers in aviation both locally and nationally.”

Read the full column.