Using state-of-the-art aircraft operated by highly skilled medical and aviation professionals, Life Flight Network (LFN) provides life-saving transport to seriously ill or injured patients from the scene of an emergency or from one hospital to
another. The nation's largest not-for-profit air medical service operates across the Northwest and Intermountain West, including from a hangar at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport in Lewiston, Idaho. Helping get the life-saving craft
in and out dependably is a 70'-wide bifold hangar door from Schweiss Doors.
LFN operates a fleet of 19 Agusta Westland AW 119Kx “Koala” helicopters, including one based at the airport in Lewiston. The Koala reaches speeds of 175 mph and comes equipped with state-of-the-art Garmin G-1000H cockpit, night vision goggle
capability, satellite weather, synthetic vision and the capacity to transport two patients with unencumbered full-body access.
Mark Hewett General Contractor Company of Clarkston, WA, won the bid to construct the 108' x 85' hangar to house two aircraft, a helicopter and a fixed wing turbine aircraft. Within the hangar is a 26-foot by 85-foot dedicated crew quarters. Life Flight
Network personnel man the hangar 24 hours a day with pilots and emergency medical staff.
“We had a base there for about five years, but we leased space and never really had our own dedicated hangar,” says Justin Dillingham, Chief Customer Officer for Light Flight. “This project is something we’ve been working on for
a couple years now and finally completed it. Now we have a beautiful new hangar with crew quarters for all our flight crew and local administrative staff.
“We average 300-400 emergency flights a year, or about one a day,” Dillingham says. “We have a goal of a helicopter getting off the ground in 8 minutes from the time we receive a call. Fixed wing flights take a little longer because
they have to file flight plans, but we try to be off the ground in less than 20 minutes. During inclement weather, the helicopter and plane are stored inside the hangar.”
The inside of the hangar is similar to a fire station where firefighters reside during their shift. It has sleep rooms, TV lounge area, restrooms, showers, a kitchen, maintenance tool area and an office. Portions of these crews alternate staying in the
living quarters 24/7.
Attached to the hangar is a Schweiss Doors 70-foot by 17-foot bifold liftstrap door. The custom-made door is equipped with autolatches and was framed for four 4' x 4' windows to bring natural light into the hangar. It is also wind-rated at 120 mph. The
insulated door was clad with 26-gauge metal sheeting.
Dillingham said he did have input on what type of door would be installed on the hangar, but relied on a recommendation from the general contractor who highly recommended the Schweiss bifold door, based on past experience.
“The bifold door works great,” Dillingham said. “It’s heavy-duty and easy to operate. A small amount of education is required so staff know not to leave it open during windy days, but the door is exactly what we needed. We had
windows installed to let light into the building and make sure the area outside is free from obstructions. It works great for us.”
Chance Chacon, Senior Project Manager for Mark Hewett General Contractor Company, was in charge of ordering and coordinating the installation of the Schweiss bifold door for the hangar. This was the general contractor's sixth Schweiss door install.
“In a nutshell, what I like best about Schweiss Doors, is that they have it figured out," Chacon said. "Schweiss knows how to build a bifold door and not trying to figure it out on the fly. One of the things that we appreciated was when I
talked to Brent (at Schweiss Doors), one of the guards for the motors got a scratch on the paint. He didn’t question it, he just said add up if there is anything missing or if anything is not right and we’ll stand by it. Just knowing in
the end that we had good partners to work with makes a big difference to us. We’d recommend Schweiss Doors to others.”
Chacon says there was no particular reason why they chose a bifold door over a hydraulic door, but cost, he said, was an issue. He said word-of-mouth was one criterion of how his company first heard about Schweiss Doors. That and the fact he said he sees
a lot of Schweiss doors in airport environments where he does a lot of work.
“The install went well without any issues and we were pleased with how everything came together,” Chacon says. “We had clear instructions and the pieces were where they were supposed to be. Brent at Schweiss Doors was very helpful. We
never had any questions during erection of the door. One of the things I really appreciated while working with Brent was that I could put him directly in the email with myself and the metal building company because it was important that we all could
work and look at things together, eliminating any possibility of something getting lost in translation. The shop drawings matched exactly.”