UI choppers may get new home

BY CHRIS CLARK | JUNE 19, 2009 7:21 AM

UI Hospitals and Clinics officials hope a plan for a new helicopter hangar will do more than just provide a new facility.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the new hangar — located at the Iowa City Municipal Airport’s Aviation Commerce Park — would likely hold three helicopters, an upgrade from the current hangar on the Oakdale Campus, which holds two.

“We’re hoping the contractor [for the project] will keep its Midwest backup helicopter there,” Moore said, and UIHC AirCare — an emergency transport system — could use the backup when both of its primary helicopters need maintenance or repair.

Typically, UIHC helicopters receive weekly maintenance at the Oakdale hangar, Moore said, noting “preventive maintenance” work is done daily at the UIHC landing pad.

UI officials offered to buy the lot for the city’s listed price — $225,000. Moore said purchasing the land would be funded by university’s treasurer investment funds, not from tax dollars. No estimates on the building price were available Thursday.

Iowa City Municipal Airport operations specialist Michael Tharp said he thinks the project is beneficial for both the UI and Iowa City. The project will centralize UIHC AirCare aviation. It could also relieve some residential encroachment at the Oakdale location.

Tharp said revenue from the sale would help the airport eliminate infrastructure debt from building the commerce park.

The hangar on the Oakdale Campus will be closed and replaced with a new information technology center, Moore said.

Officials anticipate construction of the new hangar to be complete by 2011, Moore said, noting it is too early in the process to have a more specific estimate.

If the City Council and the Airport Commission approve the deal, the UI would then need approval from the state Board of Regents.

Last year, more than 1,300 people received life-saving medical care through the UIHC AirCare and Mobile Critical Care Services, Moore said.

DI reporter Michelle Boryca contributed to this article.

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