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Life Flight® 40th Anniversary

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Life Flight 40th Interior

Houston's Skies Changed in 1976

In 1976, civilian EMS was still in its infancy and most hospitals had never considered building a helipad. However, James "Red" Duke, M.D. and Chief Lester “Whitey” Martin were about to revolutionize patient transportation in Houston and the surrounding areas. Their ground-breaking idea led to the founding of Memorial Hermann Life Flight, an air medical flight program that has been a benchmark for quality and innovation for the past 40 years.


Hermann Life Flight began its service on August 1, 1976 with one Alouette operated by Rocky Mountain Helicopters. A second Alouette was added to the fleet in 1977 and expanded once again in 1978 to include a third Alouette. All three aircraft were based at Hermann Hospital, assigned flights on a rotating basis and dispatched from offices below the helipad area. At that time, the service area extended 120 miles from Hermann Hospital.

Today, Memorial Hermann Life Flight, operating around the clock – weather permitting – 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, serves Houston and surrounding communities within a 150-mile radius including Harris County, southeast Texas and part of western Louisiana. Crews complete over 3,000 missions each year and the John S. Dunn Helipad, capable of landing four helicopters at one time, is considered one of the busiest hospital helipads in the United States. Since its inaugural flight, Memorial Hermann Life Flight has flown more than 140,000 missions.

Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS), Life Flight is Houston’s only hospital-based air medical service. Each flight is staffed by highly skilled personnel and equipped with advanced emergency equipment and necessary medications, and can transport up to two patients. Memorial Hermann Life Flight’s pilots enhance patient care by maintaining Air Transport Pilot status, while flight nurses and paramedics sustain Certified Flight Registered Nurse and Certified Flight Paramedic status. Learn about the program’s accomplishments.

Provided as a community service by Memorial Hermann, Life Flight operates as a hospital-based, non-profit organization and relies on community support and fundraising efforts to pay for the service. It costs about $3 million annually to support the program, none of which comes from tax dollars.

More information

For more information, contact Life Flight at (713) 704-3590(non-emergency calls) or by e-mail.

(Part 135 Certificate, Memorial Hermann Hospital System GVNA529E, TX 101025)