Skip to Content

View Additional Section Content

Helicopter Service

The Staff for Life Helicopter Service serves the state of Missouri through the provision of stabilization and transportation of critically injured or ill children and adults by experienced flight nurses and paramedics with advanced training and education. Responding to both injury scene and other facilities, the helicopter service personnel deliver state-of-the-art clinical care and stabilization with rapid response to requests.

The Staff for Life Helicopter Service fulfills the need for advanced life support and rapid transport of the critically injured to definitive care. As part of the Emergency Medical Response System, the helicopter service works cooperatively with referring law, fire and ambulance services, as well as referring facilities. Owned and operated by Air Methods Corporation in partnership with University of Missouri Health Care, the Staff for Life Helicopter Service provides rapid response, critical care nursing, advanced invasive skills, and safe transportation 24/7. Our air medical crew members meet and perform the highest obtainable standards of safety, professionalism and respect for human life.

Aircraft and Helicopter Bases

The Staff for Life Helicopter Service features three aircraft at three bases in Missouri. The helicopters are located in Columbia, Osage Beach and LaMonte.   

The Staff for Life Helicopter Service’s black-and-gold helicopter is a MD-902. The MD-902, or Staff for Life One, is located at University Hospital in Columbia. In addition to routine scene and inter-hospital flights, this helicopter is also used for Children’s Hospital pediatric and neonatal transports, and other specialty transports such as balloon pump patients. It can transport patients up to 500 pounds, features space for an additional medical team member and has the safety features of night vision, terrain avoidance and autopilot.

The Staff for Life Helicopter Service also operates two Eurocopter AS350s or ASTARs. The ASTAR has a long history of use in the air medical field and provides rapid transport of patients from outlying areas.

The Staff for Life Helicopter Service’s Staff for Life Two has the primary mission of providing critical care air transport for the Lake of the Ozarks region. This aircraft is based at Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach.

The second AS350, Staff for Life Three, is based in LaMonte. This aircraft is capable of transporting patients to medical facilities in Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield. It has been serving west central Missouri since 2005.

Education and Outreach

The Staff for Life Helicopter Service provides outreach education presentations on the following topics. To schedule an outreach education session, please call 573-882-9074.

American Heart Association classes

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • Basic Life Support (BLS) 
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)

Other classes

  • Landing Zone (LZ) Preparation and Safety
  • Advanced Burn Care
  • Advanced Airway
  • Neurotrauma
  • Physical Assessment
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Extrication
  • Stress Management
  • Obstetrics (OB)/Childbirth
  • OB Emergencies
  • Environmental Emergencies
  • Anhydrous Ammonia Safety
  • Hazardous Materials (Haz Mat)
  • Patient Classification
  • START Triage
  • Trauma in Pregnancy
  • Pediatric Trauma
  • Arterial Blood Gas (ABG) Interpretation
  • Pacemakers/AICD
  • 12-Lead ECG Interpretation
  • Inhalation Injury
  • Sepsis/Multi-organ failure
  • Endocrine Disorders
  • Toxicology
  • Shock
  • Emergency Escharotomy

History of The Staff for Life Helicopter Service

On Sept. 15, 1980, University of Missouri Health Care began a joint venture with the Missouri State Highway Patrol to provide air transport for the critically injured. During the first year, between 65 and 70 patients were served by The Staff for Life Helicopter Service.

On Nov. 24, 1982, MU Health Care began using a dedicated helicopter, an ASTAR similar to those in use today. This was the beginning of the program’s “Tootsie Copter” era, an affectionate nickname that referred to the brown, orange and white colors of the helicopter.

In 1984, University of Missouri Health Care recognized the need for air medical transport in the Lake of the Ozarks region to speed up patient transport time from remote locations. Air travel dramatically reduced the transport times when compared to ground transport times. The Staff for Life Two helicopter became a permanent fixture at Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach in 1985. 

In 1988, the ASTAR was replaced with a state-of-the-art twin engine BK 117.

Until 1990, the Staff for Life Helicopter Service had operated with a nurse and pilot on the aircraft. In 1990, flight paramedics were added to the flight crew and brought a different aspect of patient care to air medical services. With advanced training and skills in field medicine, flight paramedics enhanced the flight crews’ medical capabilities.

In 1993, 10UM, the new BK 117, was painted teal and grey, replacing the old brown and orange aircraft.

In 2001, the Staff for Life Helicopter Service transitioned to a community-based model, owned and operated by Rocky Mountain Helicopters Inc., now Air Methods Corporation, maintaining a contractual affiliation with University Hospital.

On April 23, 2002, state legislators recognized the Staff for Life Helicopter Service’s 20 years of service. Gov. Bob Holden signed a proclamation acknowledging the program’s service to the citizens of Missouri.

In May 2003, the Staff for Life Helicopter Service became one of the few programs in the country to carry life-saving blood on board each aircraft. 

Later in 2003, the helicopter service earned the first of many accreditations from the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS).

The Staff for Life Three helicopter base and station opened in September 2005 in La Monte, located eight miles west of Sedalia.

In 2007, the Staff for Life Two helicopter was upgraded to an advanced aircraft with more powerful B2 engines. When Lake Regional Hospital expanded its emergency department later that year, it was moved to a new helipad next to the hospital's emergency department.

In 2010, the Staff for Life Helicopter Service added advanced terrain avoidance systems and night vision goggles to its ASTAR aircraft to improve safety and visibility during night transports.

The newest helicopter in the Staff for Life fleet went into service Oct. 31, 2012. The MD-902 is equipped with the latest medical equipment, including in-flight cardiac monitoring, mobile blood testing and ultrasound, as well as state-of-the-art aviation equipment, including night vision and autopilot for the helicopter pilots.

The new black-and-gold helicopter was on public view Oct. 31, 2012, at a reception celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Staff for Life Helicopter Service at University Hospital.

Landing Zone Requirements

The Staff for Life Helicopter Service requires the following: 

Requesting Information

  • Name of requesting agency and call-back number
  • Type and extent of injuries
  • Approximate weight of patient
  • Location, major cross streets, coordinates, landmarks, etc.
  • Ground contact unit and frequency

Landing Requirements

  • 100 x 100 foot area
  • Site free of trees, wires, vehicles and loose debris
  • If dusty, wet the area down.
  • Flat, smooth area; avoid slopes
  • Marking devices (flashlights, strobes, flares) secured to ground
  • During night, an emergency vehicle with roof lights on, spotlights aimed down at the landing site is needed. The pilot may ask for lights to be turned off during landing due to the use of night vision goggles (NVGs).
  • Upwind if there are hazardous materials (Haz Mat scene)

Safety Precautions

  • Keep vehicles, personnel and bystanders back at least 100 feet. 
  • Remain clear of the tail rotor at all times.
  • Do not approach the aircraft unless signaled to do so by a crew member.
  • Always approach the aircraft from the front.
  • Protect the patient from blowing debris and rotor wash.
  • No loose blankets or clothing on or around the patient
  • No smoking within 100 feet of the helicopter
  • No running within 100 feet of the helicopter
  • Do not attempt to open or close the aircraft doors.
  • Do not raise anything above your head (IV poles, etc.).
  • Follow the flight crew’s instructions at all times.


The Staff for Life Helicopter Service’s mission reflects the mission statements of both University of Missouri Health Care and the Air Methods Corporation. The Staff for Life Helicopter Service is dedicated to the care of the critically ill and injured of all ages on a continual basis by providing a fully trained and staffed critical care transport environment. The community is further served through a comprehensive outreach and training program, including critical care and trauma education, helicopter utilization, safety and landing zone preparation. Patients are not discriminated against due to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or ability to pay. It is the goal of the Staff for Life Helicopter Service to be an industry leader in the provision of superior patient care and safety in the air transport environment.

Requesting Aircraft

To request aircraft, contact the Staff for Life Communications Center at 800-325-5400.


Hospitals requesting inter-facility transfers do not need to be in our normal coverage zones. Our air medical transport will respond to any hospital in the state of Missouri and transfer to the receiving facility.

Information needed for patient transports:

  • Name of sending hospital
  • Name of sending physician
  • Call back number
  • Number and age of patient(s)
  • Approximate weight of patient(s)
  • Type of patient(s) (child, balloon pump, trauma, etc.)
  • Patient transfer packet (optional)
  • Checklist 
  • Physician certification statement
  • Consent to treat

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Providers

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Providers

Information needed for patient transports:

  • Name of requesting agency
  • Call back number
  • Number and approximate age of patient(s)
  • Location of landing zone including points of reference that may be seen from the air, such as antennas, water towers, major roadways and intersections 
  • EMS may also utilize pre-designated landing zones in the area
  • Ground contact
  • Contact frequency (usually Fire Mutual Aid 154.28000)

Service Area

Staff For Life Service Area

While this map shows the Staff for Life Helicopter’s service area, hospitals requesting inter-facility transfers do not need to be in our normal coverage zones. Our air medical transport will respond to any hospital in the state of Missouri and transfer to the receiving facility.

Safety Before, Safety During, Safety Always

All of the Staff for Life helicopters are equipped with safety systems such as night vision goggles, terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS), advanced global positioning systems (GPS) and avionics to help our pilots and crews arrive quickly and safely.

The Staff 1 helicopter is an MD 900 helicopter that is instrument flight (IFR) capable, which permits expanded use in some types of inclement weather.

Helipad Procedure for Incoming Aircraft


To ensure appropriate utilization of the University of Missouri Health Care helipads and maintain availability of landing areas for medical helicopters while coordinating safe operations on the pad.


· AIR COM: Air Methods Communication Center

· CS: Communication Specialist

· ETA: Estimated Time of Arrival

· UMHC: University of Missouri Health Care

· WCH: Women’s and Children’s Hospital


The University Hospital and Women’s and Children’s Hospital helipads will be limited to air medical-related transports only. Utilization will be limited to patient transports, personnel, equipment and blood or organ transfers unless prior authorization is obtained from the chief flight nurse (medical manager) or hospital designee.


1. The AIR COMM/CS directs movement of air medical aircraft at the University Hospital and Women’s and Children’s Hospital helipads with prior communication to include patient report, ETA and any assistance needed with patient off-loading.

2. Unauthorized or questionable requests for landing should be deferred to the University Hospital security.

3. In the event of a military or other oversized aircraft requesting permission to land at the University Hospital helipad, the AIR COM/CS will contact the following:

a. On-duty flight crew

b. Hospital Security

4. The UMHC helipad, for operational purposes, shall be considered a single spot helipad, with the southern pad being available for visiting aircraft. If the southern helipad is occupied at UMHC or the single pad occupied at WCH and a second or third medical aircraft is inbound the CS will contact UMHC /WCH security to request the visiting aircraft pilot to relocate to Columbia Regional Airport.

5. All visiting aircraft pilots will remain with their aircraft and be prepared to relocate immediately.

6. In the event of multiple inbound aircraft arriving at University Hospital/WCH helipad, off-load sequencing will be at the discretion of the incoming medical crews with priority based on patient acuity.

7. Incoming aircraft may use as an alternate, the helipad at Women’s and Children’s Hospital or Columbia Regional Airport at their discretion. Assistance with transport arrangements will be made through the Air Methods Communication Center (800-325-5400)

8. The AIR COMM/CS will alert pilots of other inbound aircraft.

9. All incoming pilots will communicate with:

· AIR COM · Pilot-to-pilot and/or in the blind on 123.025 on all approach landings at UMHC/WCH helipads

· Emergency department UMHC/WCH 

10. All outbound pilots will communicate with:


· Pilot-to-pilot and/or in the blind at intervals on 123.025 before all departures at UMHC/WCH helipads

11. Pilots will communicate with other aircraft pilots on radio frequency 123.025 when more than one aircraft is running on the helipad simultaneously and/or when inbound with similar ETA.

12. All returning pilots for medical crew pick-up after refueling will follow the same above incoming communication. All inbound aircraft with patient drop-off will be given priority landing before crew pick-up aircraft.

13. Hospital security personnel will monitor the helipad during flight operations with the capability of communicating with flight personnel via radio.

14. The Staff for Life Helicopter Service personnel will refrain from patient loading/off-loading when more than one aircraft is operating “hot” on the helipad.

15. Aircraft are prohibited from landing or departing from the University Hospital/WCH helipad without prior contact with the AIR COM, pilot-to-pilot on 123.025 and the Emergency Department.

Leading Health Care Services

Blood Administration
The Staff for Life Helicopter Service is one of the only air medical helicopter services in the state to carry two units of packed red blood cells on every flight. For patients requiring rapid infusion because of an accident, internal injury or severe medical condition, this blood may be used to prolong the survival of the patient prior to arrival to the hospital.

Ultrasound Technology
In-flight portable ultrasound allows the team to rapidly detect some internal injuries and create tailored treatment plans based on those findings. It permits the skilled nurses and paramedics a view inside the body not otherwise readily available in the field.

Laboratory Quality Blood Testing
The in-flight portable lab testing capability empowers our medical clinicians to assess and treat complex patients comprehensively. This information can assist hospital staff in earlier treatment plans and actions.

Advanced Respiratory Care
The top-tier ventilators carried on the aircraft are capable of ICU-quality respiratory support as well as provide settings for bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). These flexible setting medical tools give our teams the ability to adjust to the level of care needed to meet a patient’s changing condition.

Balloon Pump Transport
Using the latest in fiber optic technology, the Staff for Life Helicopter Service uses the Maquet CardioSave Balloon pump for inter-facility transports for critical heart patients. Staff at referring facilities will place an intra-aortic balloon pump to help assist and preserve the patient’s heart function until he or she can be transported to a higher-level facility like University Hospital to undergo cardiothoracic surgery. These types of transports require skill and experience. Our team trains to maintain the level necessary to see these patients to their destination.

STEMI Activation 
Initial management and coordination of emergency transfer for a patient experiencing a heart attack or STEMI (ST segment elevation myocardial infarction), improves a patient's chance of survival. The Staff for Life Helicopter Service’s medical team is extensively trained and experienced in reading and interpreting 12-lead EKGs in transport. This capability allows the air medical team to contact local hospitals to activate their cardiac catheterization lab team, reducing the time from the patient’s onset of a heart attack to the time of coronary intervention. This decreases the length of time the heart muscle goes without oxygen, and improves patients’ survival and overall outcome.

Stroke Activation
“Time is brain.” According to the American Stroke Association and National Institutes of Health, the two most important steps in successfully treating a stroke are early identification and rapid transport to a certified Stroke Treatment Center.

A 2006 study in Stroke Journal indicated that, “Quantitative estimates of the pace of neural circuitry loss in human ischemic stroke emphasize the time urgency of stroke care. The typical patient loses 1.9 million neurons each minute in which stroke is untreated.”

The Staff for Life Helicopter Service is part of a coordinated effort within University of Missouri Health care and other qualified Stroke Centers across Missouri to expedite patient transport and treatment. The Staff for Life crews participate in extra training on the importance of early notification of stroke teams to improve outcomes. Our goal is to facilitate the quickest response possible and streamline the process for the receiving stroke center so that brain-saving therapies can begin the moment our helicopter arrives.

Neonatal Transport
In partnership with the Children’s Hospital Transport Service, the Staff for Life Helicopter Service provides a highly specialized team of neonatal intensive care nurses and respiratory therapists to transport babies weighing less than 15 pounds.

The Children’s Hospital Transport Service team will arrive at facilities that lack the nurseries to care for critically ill infants and transport these fragile patients to receive the highest level of newborn and infant care at the MU Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Training, Education and Outreach
The Staff for Life team members attend monthly training and chart review sessions in order to assure quality care is meeting the highest standards. Physician involvement creates an interdisciplinary environment where ideas and knowledge can be shared. Critical skills are taught and practiced during quarterly live tissue and simulation training. Monthly meetings and bi-yearly aircraft drills keep crews focused on safety and pair well with a multitude of required computer-based trainings that highlight all aspects of helicopter operations.

Our nurses, paramedics, physicians and support staff conduct frequent educational opportunities for partnering emergency services and the general public. They teach classes from basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to advanced trauma care and landing zone preparations. The Helicopter Service team members also participate in community activities and demonstrations.


Air Methods

The Staff for Life Helicopter Service is owned and operated by Air Methods Corporation in partnership with University of Missouri Health Care.

Air Methods Logo

Giving Vince His Game Back