Penn State Health is adding an aeromedical helicopter to its Life Lion Critical Care fleet and establishing a new critical care transport base at its East Hempfield Township hospital.  

Health system officials along with Life Lion crew members announced the addition of the new aircraft Monday at Penn State Health Lancaster Medical Center. The new aircraft will be based at the 2160 State Road hospital and will begin operations Wednesday. 

“Life Lion Critical Care transport teams move patients quickly and safely to specialty care when patients need it the most,” said Keith McMinn, director of Penn State Health Life Lion. “Our most important asset isour staff of pilots, aviation maintenance technicians, communication specialists, nurses, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians.” 

The Life Lion crew consists of 20 paramedics, 19 nurses, 11 pilots and five aviation maintenance technicians, according to McMinn. 

With the addition of the new aircraft, Life Lion Critical Care now has four two-engine helicopters along with a ground transportation ambulance. Lancaster Medical Center includes a helipad. 

“This aircraft gives us the capability of more advanced equipment to do ICU care onboard the helicopter. When minutes matter, they call us and having this helicopter here is our biggest advantage,” said Life Lion flight paramedic Mike Kurtz.  

Kurtz, who has been a crew member with Life Lion for 36 years, said the aircraft will carry a supply of blood onboard.  

“It’s a game changer for our trauma patients and certain medical patients that we fly in the helicopter. It gives us time to get them to the hospital in a stable condition,” Kurtz said. 

Director of emergency services Michael Reihart agrees. 

“This is a big deal. This will save time when it’s most crucial for the patient. A key component of emergency medical services is safe, reliable air transport in the most critical times when seconds truly count,” Reihart said. 

Life Lion’s helicopters, which are equipped to operate in a wide range of weather conditions, have transported more than 45,000 patients since 1986, averaging 1,200 transports per year. 

With the addition of its new aircraft, an H155 model developed by Airbus, Life Lion now owns two of the largest aeromedical helicopters in Pennsylvania, featuring a large interior cabin for advance lifesaving equipment and space for crew members and medical specialists to administer care. 

“Individuals and families should have easy access to routine health care close to where they live and at those times when a higher level of care is needed, they shouldn’t have to travel very far to get it. As we all know, seconds and minutes matter and the helicopter transport does save lives,” said Penn State Health CEO Steve Massini. 

Life Lion operates two other bases, one on the campus of Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Dauphin County and another one at Carlisle Airport in Cumberland County. While assigned to Lancaster, the new aeromedical helicopter will go to Hershey for regular maintenance and inspections.  

Penn State Health’s six-story Lancaster Medical Center, which opened in September 2022 has an emergency department and offers primary, specialty and acute care that is meant to complement – not replace – the more advanced services offered at Hershey Medical Center, the health system’s academic hub.  

The medical center is the largest project in Lancaster County for the university-based health system, which in June 2022 opened Penn State Health Children’s Pediatric Center at a former Toys ‘R Us at 1430 Harrisburg Pike in Manheim Township. 


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