New emergency helicopter serves Encinitas

Reach Air Medical now competes with Mercy Air

Mercy Air, the longtime sole provider of emergency medical flights in San Diego, now has some competition. On the morning of November 6, Reach Air Medical Services debuted its new helicopter to Encinitas firefighters, lifeguards, and paramedics. The new rescue copter landed at the Moonlight Beach parking lot for a thorough inspection by local first responders.

Though based in Santa Rosa (and founded in 1987), the company will fly their helicopter out of the Oceanside airport. Pilot Matt McLuckie said once an emergency call comes in, the crew of three (himself, a flight nurse, and flight paramedic) can have “skids up” in as little as six minutes.

They could fly to Encinitas and land in about five minutes. As soon as the copter lands, “We can have the patient loaded and skids up in less than ten minutes,” said the former Marine pilot. Then it’s usually only a ten-minute flight to one of the two local trauma centers — Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla or Palomar Medical Center in Escondido.

Emergency dispatchers will contact one of the now two air-rescue companies, depending on which unit is closest to the scene.

Emergency personnel have designated five landing sites along the coast of Encinitas, says Encinitas Fire Dept. battalion chief Darrin Ward. In addition to Moonlight Beach, the other sites are Seaside Beach, Ada Harris Elementary School, Scripps Memorial Hospital, and Paul Ecke Central Elementary School. But with onboard computers in the chief’s truck, he can direct the copter to land anywhere necessary, even on a street or freeway.

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