Pegasus Flying High

By: Venton D. Blandin
By: Venton D. Blandin

September 6, 2005

While most motorists are counting pennies to pinch at the pump when filling their car, medical helicopters are counting something else.

The crew of Pegasus count seconds...not gallons.

With today's gas prices tapping in at $3, or even more; motorists are paying about $30 to fill an average size car once a week. To Pegasus, that's nothing. Its crew fills up every couple hours.

"It gives us about an endurance of two hours and 10 minutes, but at 165 knots, it lets us go a significance distance," said Bob Knox, Program Manager for Pegasus.

While filling the bird every two hours can be expensive, the cost of the blended fuel used for the twin-engine single pilot aircraft, may be lower than you expect.

"We have not appreciated a significant rise. I think something less than four or five percent of the gas cost increase," said Knox.

Pegasus, who's seen about an eight cent increase in fuel cost this year, carries about 165 gallons of fuel per flight, and can travel as fast as 165 miles per hour. These high numbers practically allow the 'mobile air and ground medical transport' to cover the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.

"It could be a day that you show up, and even before you arrive in there, the helicopter is starting up and you're running to jump on-board. You may not be back to base except to re-fuel, and re-equip for the entire day," said Knox.

The chopper burns more than a gallon per minute. With the next emergency call coming at minute, a split-second response is needed, leaving no time to take chances.

"That's the nature of the medical emergency services. The unpredictability of it," added Knox.

Overall, the gas bill for Pegasus accounts for less than a quarter of the entire budget to run the helicopter.

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