About the Helicopter Service


MU Health Care Air Medical Service's mission reflects the mission statements of both University of Missouri Health Care and the MedTrans Corporation. MU Health Care's Air Medical 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 MU Health Care Air Medical Service to be an industry leader in the provision of superior patient care and safety in the air transport environment.

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 350. 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 in Columbia 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).
  • 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 twin engine 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. This aircraft is also IFR capable which allows the team to respond to patients in some weather situations not possible with VFR flight.
  • 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.
  • The most recent additions to the fleet of aircraft have come with a change from AStars to EC130s. The EC130 is well known as having the largest cabin of any single-engine helicopter, making it ideal for delivering patient care in flight.