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—  This aircraft is one of three new Bell 429 helicopters purchased by Mercy Flight and the first to arrive at the station.

OLEAN, NY — Olean-area patients will now be transported to life-saving care in a faster, safer and newer ride.

Mercy Flight unveiled its new Bell 429 helicopter Thursday at Olean General Hospital. The aircraft, which replaces the 1980 BK-117 model that had been stationed at OGH, officially began its service that same afternoon and is expected to be in service 24/7 sometime next week.

The ceremony, held in the Louis A. Magnano Mercy Flight Hangar on the OGH campus, included speeches, a community tour of the helicopter and even a flyover.

“Mr. Finan, $7.8 million just landed on your helipad,” Mercy Flight Executive Vice President Margie Ferrentino said to Upper Allegheny Health System President and CEO Tim Finan as the Bell 429 landed, causing the audience in the hangar bay to applaud.

In an effort to overhaul its air ambulance fleet, the Buffalo-based Mercy Flight purchased the Olean Bell 429 and two others with the help of an approximately $23 million long-term lending effort from M&T Bank and the U. S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

The Bell 429 at OGH is first of the three that will arrive in Western New York this year. The other two, which will replace 1980 BK-117 helicopters in Springville and Niagara Falls, are expected to be in place by the end of October.

Mercy Flight secured its first Bell 429 in 2010. That helicopter, which is stationed at Batavia, was also made possible through a loan collaboration with M&T and the USDA.

A Bell 429 is faster, flies smoother and simply gives crews more capability and safety than older models, said Marc Boies, Mercy Flight director of flight operations.

Olean officials noted the importance of having a resource like Mercy Flight in the local area, as some have even had personal experiences with the service. Olean Common Council President John Crawford noted Mercy Flight saved the life of his wife’s grandmother, while state Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, credited it with saving her own life when her appendix ruptured 29 years ago.

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Troy Shaffer
Troy Shaffer

About the Author: Troy is an Air Medical Career Expert passionate about a team approach to improving air medical safety from the ground up. Troy is a former Army medic, Army pilot, Coast Guard pilot and EMS pilot. Troy has taught hundreds of wannabe flight medics, flight nurses and EMS pilots the exact steps needed to launch air medical careers.

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