You see Mercy Flight choppers in the sky -- perhaps transporting patients to a nearby hospital.
Mercy Flight Five, the agency's Baby Bell, is having its first birthday at the Flying Tigers headquarters at 100 Amherst Villa Rd. this afternoon from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. WBEN's "Beach & Co.," with host Sandy Beach, broadcasts live from the event.
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Margaret Ferrentino, the agency's executive vice president, says the celebration does have some meaning.
"The first birthday of our first bran new aircraft, our Bell 429, and what it's been able to accomplish over the last year in the community," Ferrentino says.
Ferrentino notes that Mercy Flight is a non-profit agency that does need community support.
"The fund raising efforts and the contributions from our community, and the melting pot of contributions helps to close the gap between what we get reimbursed by insurance and the care we provide to our uninsured and underinsured patients ... and allows us to keep our three bases open 24/7 365," she says.
The chopper's crew members include the pilot, a paramedic, and a nurse, the agency says.
Government funding has been drastically reduced to less than 1 percent of its current budget, Mercy Flight says. Nearly 90 percent of its expenses are the helicopters, equipment, and flight crew members, according to the agency.
As for Mercy Flight's operations, Dennis Crandall, the agency's chief pilot, says they're always keeping their eyes on the skies.
"Certainly here in Western New York, we're always dealing with the weather. You can fly five minutes away and run into some weather you didn't expect, so weather's always a big challenge," Crandall says.
He says sees Mercy Flight as faster transportation than ground service.
"We don't have stop signs and streets that we have to follow. It's all straight line. And we're doing 130-140 miles an hour straight line, so we can get anywhere in Western New York and back to a trauma center, whether it be ECMC, Buffalo General, or whatever facility the patient needs to go to, we can get their very quickly and very efficiently," he says.
Mercy Flight has three choppers -- including ones in Buffalo, Batavia, and Olean.