Airlift Northwest bases helicopter in Friday Harbor for much of summer

Airlift Northwest will again base one of its helicopters at Friday Harbor Airport this summer to expedite emergency services for residents and visitors in the San Juan Islands.

The helicopter will be at the airport during the day on alternating weekends and during the San Juan County Fair.

“This move allows us to provide service more quickly during a busy time of year,” Airlift Northwest Regional Manager Jeff Richey said in a press release. “The summer months bring more visitors to the islands and the need for more emergency services. By basing a helicopter at Friday Harbor, we will be able to shorten response times not only to Friday Harbor, but to all the islands as well.”

San Juan Island EMS Chief Jim Cole added, “We experience increased need for air medical transportation during the busy summer season. We appreciate Airlift Northwest recognizing this need by stationing a crew at Friday Harbor for the third consecutive year. This is a very positive relationship that provides superior service for people on the islands who experience a critical medical or traumatic emergency.”

Airlift nurses and pilots will stay at the San Juan Island EMS crew quarters, which are just minutes from the Friday Harbor helipad. This local positioning of the crew and aircraft will significantly shorten the time required for the helicopter to reach a patient in the San Juan Islands.

Cole said San Juan Island EMS, or the EMS teams on Orcas, Lopez and other islands, will continue to bring patients to an airport to meet the Airlift Northwest helicopter.

The helicopter will be in Friday Harbor on the following dates: July 3-5, July 17-19, July 31 to Aug. 2, Aug. 12-16 for the San Juan County Fair, Aug. 28-30, and Sept. 4-7 for Labor Day weekend.

It will arrive at 9:45 a.m. and depart for its Bellingham base at 6 p.m. each day.

As an additional service, Airlift Northwest operates a membership program that is available to people on the islands. Under that program, called AirCare, when Airlift Northwest is requested by a medical facility or an emergency response team to fly a critically ill or injured patient to appropriate medical care, the portion of the Airlift Northwest bill that isn’t covered by insurance or Medicare is paid through the membership.

A membership in AirCare is $79 a year and covers all members of a household. Information is available online at or by calling (888) 835-1599.

San Juan Island EMS is the tax-supported EMS agency serving the residents and visitors of San Juan Island, Town of Friday Harbor, Brown Island, Stuart Island, Johns Island, Speiden Island, Pearl Island and Henry Island. It provides emergency medical services, critical care transport, and injury and accident prevention. The staff of career paramedics and volunteer EMTs is available 24 hours a day. Visit,

Airlift Northwest is a non-profit service founded in 1982 to provide air medical services for critically ill and injured infants, children and adults. Airlift Northwest has bases in Washington and Alaska to serve the Pacific Northwest. Visit

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