Hugh Rafferty/Improving North County Santa Maria Times | Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2010 12:00 am
The Santa Maria Public Airport District has initiated a major expansion — runway 12-30 is being extended 1,700 feet to the northwest.
When complete, the main runway will be 8,004 feet long. In addition to increasing the safe operation of aircraft that currently use the facility, including the U.S. Forest Service fleet, corporate jets that frequent the airport, and the commercial operations of Allegiant Air and United Express, the runway will also be capable of supporting longer flights utilizing the longer takeoff distance available.
The first phase of the improvement project will continue through the end of April 2011. During this phase, construction crews will focus on relocation of perimeter fencing, installation of storm drainage improvements and on airfield electrical upgrades.
The major component of this first phase is construction of the parallel taxiway extension, including lighting.
Phase two of construction activity will begin in June. This effort will be more intense, focusing on the runway extension itself. Improvements will include the paved runway extension, re-marking of the entire runway, the installation of airfield guidance signs, and the installation of runway edge lights along the extension.
The second phase will also include extensive upgrades and relocations of airport navigation aids, the components that facilitate the actual landing of aircraft under less-than-perfect visibility conditions.
Much of the work of this second phase will occur at night, reducing — to the extent possible — impacts to ongoing airport operations and commercial service. All proposed improvements are being constructed on existing Santa Maria Airport property.
Construction of phase one is being accomplished by Granite Construction, operating out of its Santa Maria office. In addition to Granite, several subcontractors, the materials testing lab, the construction surveyor and the inspecting team, including biological monitors and the construction manager, are all from the Central Coast.
All major construction materials, including concrete aggregate base and asphalt pavement, will be produced locally, and trucked to the site using local trucks and drivers. Additionally, precast concrete drainage structures installed on the project will be produced in Santa Maria.
Granite Construction has estimated that a total of 12,600 hours will be required to complete Phase one. On average, including all support staff and truck drivers, it is estimated that 30 people per day will be working on this project.
The entire construction effort, including both phases, is estimated to be $12 million. The economic benefit multiplier for public infrastructure spending is widely believed to range from 1.5 to 6.2.
At an average of 3.8, investment in the construction of the runway extension has the potential to provide $42 million in commerce to the local economy. This does not include any of the potential increase in business activity to the airport and the Central Coast once the extended runway is placed in service late next fall.
The project is being funded through several grants from the FAA, with grant match funds provided by the Santa Maria Public Airport District, which continues in its forward-thinking vision for the airport and the central coast.
Hugh Rafferty is chairman of the Committee to Improve North County, and president of the Santa Maria Public Airport District board of directors. Thanks to Chris Hastert, airport district general manager, and John Smith, project engineer, for providing the information contained in this commentary.
Posted in Commentary on Thursday, December 16, 2010 12:00 am
Dusk was approaching as Calstar 7, the Central Coast’s first dedicated air ambulance, returned to its base at the Santa Maria Public Airport, having come from the scene of an accident. But before the helicopter could touchdown, the crew received a new call for assistance: A man had a high-speed collision on his all-terrain vehicle, which launched him over the handle bars into a gully full of boulders. His condition was unknown.
As the helicopter approached the accident scene, the primary and secondary flight nurses kept a lookout for power lines, trees and boulders. With darkness growing, finding a suitable place to land on the uneven terrain became tricky. The anticipation of finding out what injuries their patient had suffered kept crew members on their toes.
“Your adrenaline is pumping, your heart is racing because you don’t know what to expect,” said flight nurse Jared Olson. “Your thoughts are racing about what [the injuries] could be, and you’re thinking about what tools you have to help that individual.” And help they did.
Within 10 minutes, the patient, who was unconscious when the crew arrived and had head trauma, fractures to his extremities and possible chest and spinal injuries, was hustled into the aircraft. There, his heart rhythm and rate, oxygen levels, blood pressure and temperature were monitored by equipment similar to what is found in ambulances and intensive care units.
Once the helicopter was airborne again, the flight nurses began giving care, including inserting a breathing tube into the patient and putting him on a ventilator. “[The patient had] no long-term effects from his injuries,” Olson said. “Because we were able to care for his initial injuries, he was able to have the surgeries he needed right away, and he is able to continue on with his life.”
Between 25 and 40 percent of Calstar transports are from accident scenes, where patients are picked up from Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern counties and are taken to Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria or Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara.
Because it can take a ground ambulance several hours to reach remote locations, such as Cuyama and Hollister Ranch, Calstar’s presence on the Central Coast can make a crucial difference in the outcome of a patient’s health and the length of his or her hospital stay, by cutting down travel time to less than an hour.
“If we’re not here, the closest air ambulance to the south is in Anaheim and to the north is Salinas,” said Lisa Abeloe, chief flight nurse for Calstar 7. “[The 45-minute fight] is additional time the patient has to wait to begin their transport to a hospital.”
Calstar 7’s base is home to two Bell 222 helicopters, four pilots and eight nurses who are on call 24 hours a day. Each helicopter can carry up to two patients, along with the pilot and two flight nurses, and can fly through any kind of weather, with the exception of fog.
The aircraft needs an area of only 75 feet square to set down, and can land on most terrain, including grass, river rock or sand.
Each flight nurse has to have had trauma experience in a hospital, like in an intensive care unit or emergency department.
Suz Roehl, a flight nurse who spent years in ICUs and emergency departments, said she loves the challenge that comes from working in pre-hospital situations. “You don’t know what’s coming at you,” she said. “Every call is different, so you’re constantly being challenged. You work with your partner to see how good you can make a call turn out.”
Olson said that, though everything at the scene of an accident moves very quickly, he relies on his training and experience to ensure things run smoothly. “You know exactly what you’re supposed to do … and you go through everything you need to for that patient in a systematic manner,” he said. “You’re constantly assessing and anticipating anything that could go wrong and you try to be one step ahead so you can prevent it.”
Billy-Jade Achiu, another flight nurse, said she enjoys being able to work with other emergency response teams. She added that working out how to best care for a patient comes from cooperation. “Whether you are fire, paramedics, law enforcement, whether you are Calstar or a hospital, we all have the same goal in mind: keep people alive as well as you can to live a quality life,” she said. “We admire all the people that work along with us that help us, and we are appreciative of what they do for us.”
For the Calstar 7 nurses, being able to care for people and give them a better quality of life is the biggest reward they receive for their hard work and risk taking.
“You get in a zone when [a patient is] really sick,” Roehl said .“You just say, ‘How can I keep their brain and vital organs going and get them back to their family member.’”
Achiu agreed. “The greatest thing is to actually be able to see what you have done — actually made a difference in that person’s life,” she said. “Whether it’s physical, emotional or spiritual, you’ve done something to affect that person.”
Posted in Local on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 1:45 pm
By Leah Thompson / Staff Writer / firstname.lastname@example.org Santa Maria Times