North Carolina AHEC Program
fall 2011 newsletter | home
Medical Air Operations Moves to RDU
Medical Air Operations, the air transportation department of the North Carolina AHEC Program, moved into a new facility at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in July 2011. The new facility includes a large hangar for airplane maintenance, as well as offices for the Medical Air Operations (Medical Air) staff and a waiting area for passengers. The new Medical Air facility is adjacent to the facility operated by the NC Department of Transportation air operations.
Medical Air Operations was founded in 1968 by two members of the UNC School of Medicine faculty who were also pilots, and who had received requests to fly out to several rural communities and provide badly needed clinical services there. When the AHEC Program was founded in 1972, Medical Air became a part of AHEC and has operated as its transportation wing ever since. Until July, Medical Air was housed at Horace Williams Airport, which is owned by UNC-Chapel Hill. Horace Williams Airport is slated for closure in the coming year as the Horace Williams property is prepared for development as Carolina North, a second campus for UNC-Chapel Hill.
Medical Air is a vital transportation system in support of the service and educational missions of the university and the AHEC Program. The most frequent passengers are clinical faculty from UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University and other academic health centers, who fly out to sites in the state to conduct specialty clinics for patients who otherwise would have to travel several hours to one of the academic health centers for care. Faculty traveling out on Medical Air see approximately 20,000 patients each year, thus allowing families ready access to pediatric and adult sub-specialists who are in high demand and unavailable in many smaller cities and towns in the state.
Medical Air is also used by faculty from the universities who are teaching in AHEC continuing professional education programs for health care providers. Last year over 190,000 health professionals attended AHEC-sponsored programs on a broad array of clinical, administrative and health policy topics.
The new facility at RDU contains a 10,000 square foot state-of-the-art hangar, in which Medical Air’s three full-time mechanics maintain the six aircraft that are part of the Medical Air fleet. “It is a very nice facility,” said Gordon Kramon, Medical Air’s director of operations. “It has everything that we need.”
“This is a terrific new facility,” noted Tom Bacon, DrPH, director of the NC AHEC Program. “With the planned closure of Horace Williams Airport, we were concerned about the future of Medical Air, but this new facility provides us with a permanent home for Medical Air that will serve AHEC and the people of North Carolina for years to come.”
Editor's Note: Additional information about the UNC Medical Air Operations relocation can be found here.