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Aviation in medicine

Delivering specialized orthopedic care to mountain towns

Many of the tiny towns that dot the rugged Rocky Mountains rely on a thin thread of roadway carved into the rock. They’re separated by miles of challenging terrain as well as low visibility and brutally cold temperatures brought in by alpine storms, making it difficult for patients to travel to medical centers to see orthopedic specialists.

The doctors of Premier Bone and Joint Centers of Laramie, Wyoming, take to the skies in a fleet of aircraft, each a BEECHCRAFT KING AIR turboprop, to reach patients who may not otherwise have access to the care they need.

“Our King Air fleet allows our nine orthopedic physicians to bring specialized care to the patients, rather than have the patients travel great distances to see their doctor,” said Cody Diekroeger, chief pilot for Premier Bone and Joint Centers, who oversees the flight department and three other pilots.

Premier Bone and Joint Centers' satellite locations

Premier Bone and Joint Centers operates 10 satellite clinic locations across the state in addition to its main clinic in Larmie, Wyoming.

Several days a week, each physician and a support staff member climb aboard one of the company’s four King Air C90A aircraft. With an early-morning start from Laramie Regional Airport, they fly to a number of satellite clinic locations, treating dozens of patients along the way. With the range and speed of the King Air, they’ll be home in time for dinner, something that’s impossible by car.

"Our King Air fleet has proven to be a valuable tool for our medical practice. We do not know of another aircraft that would do a better job for us in terms of comfort and reliability. We acquired our first King Air 29 years ago, and we plan to continue to operate them for many more years to come." Cody Diekroeger, chief pilot for Premier Bone and Joint Centers

Reliable, flexible transportation

The company began operating Beechcraft aircraft in the early 1980s, starting with a chartered Beechcraft BONANZA aircraft, and later, a company-owned Beechcraft BARON aircraft. In 1985, when Premier upgraded the Baron aircraft to a King Air C90A turboprop, the doctors at the practice had found the perfect tool. Between 2001 and 2009, they added three more King Air C90A aircraft and made traveling the state to reach patients a full-time commitment.

Premier’s flights typically range from 75 to nearly 200 miles and are often flown into high-elevation airports with instrument approaches and paved runways.

"Many of the airports we operate to and from are at high elevations with surrounding mountainous terrain. Given our operating environment, passenger loads and the length of our flights, the King Air C90A is very well suited for us." Cody Diekroeger, chief pilot for Premier Bone and Joint Centers

After Wyoming’s bitterly cold winters come warm summer days that ride in on Chinook winds. The King Air turboprop handles both extremes equally well.

For 40 years, Premier Bone and Joint Centers has provided specialized orthopedic medical care. Today, it reaches patients throughout the Rocky Mountain region with its fleet of King Air C90A aircraft.

“Our King Air C90A aircraft handle the high and hot conditions of the summer months very well and are equally capable of addressing icing and contaminated runway situations during the rest of the year,” Diekroeger said.

“It is vitally important for our physicians to arrive at their scheduled clinic or surgery center locations on time to be able to provide patient treatment. Occasionally, we may have to delay a departure due to poor weather conditions at our destination. However, fewer than one percent of our flights are cancelled due to adverse weather, and since 2006, only two clinics have been cancelled for airplane mechanical reasons.”

To ensure the flight department operates efficiently and effectively, Diekroeger continually researches different aircraft types.

“Our research keeps leading us back to the King Air. We average more than 1,450 flights annually, and it is imperative that we utilize an airplane that is mechanically reliable and is capable of operating in an environment that often presents rather challenging flying conditions. The King Air C90A’s speed, range, payload and reliability ideally suits our missions,” he said.