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Emergency services helicopter will operate from fire department grounds in four months

OCEANSIDE — The Planning Commission gave the green light for the development of an emergency services heliport on fire department grounds on Jan. 26.

REACH Air Medial Services will develop a heliport, and lease 8,024 square feet of the 6.5-acre firefighter-training site on Jones Road for eight years.

After the eight-year lease is up the city will own the helipad.

Randy Lyman, REACH Air director of service delivery, said he anticipates the partnership between REACH Air and the city will continue far beyond eight years.

REACH Air currently operates out of Oceanside Municipal Airport, and has been working on the relocation process to the fire department site for a year.

The fire department works closely with REACH Air and oversees the helicopter program. Off duty firefighters are already hired part time to serve REACH Air.

Lyman said he hopes the partnership will grow further through collaborative work efforts and trainings. He added he sees that happening with a heliport on the fire department site.

Both REACH Air and the city see the partnership as a win.

The REACH Airbus EC-135 turbine engine helicopter services San Diego County and makes one to two emergency flights a day.

City staff says an emergency heliport is a plus for safety operations.

“It’s a very good commodity for the fire station,” Scott Nightingale, city associate planner, said.

Lyman said developing the new heliport would take three to four months. He said a key part of the process is meeting state safety regulations for take offs and landings.

“It’s more than just putting in a helipad, the whole surrounding area must be safe to ascent and descent into,” Lyman said.

Lyman said the Jones Road site is a prime spot for the heliport because of its close proximity to the airport, and location in a light industrial zone away from homes. Noise impacts to homes on area hillsides have proven to be within residential noise thresholds.

Nightingale also gave the site points for being well suited for the heliport. The land is fairly level and few modifications are needed to install the helipad. Site grading, laying asphalt, and installation of safety lights will put the helipad in place.

Air safety will be addressed by adding ground lights to mark the helipad, and installing beacon lights to alert pilots to the top of the neighboring NCTD building. In addition, NCTD facility lights that interfere with flight visibility will be removed.

When operations are relocated, the helicopter will continue to get its jet fuel from the airport via a 400-gallon fuel truck that will stay parked on fire department grounds.

REACH Air will also move a 1,870 square foot crew trailer to the site to house three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a break room, kitchen, and flight plan room.

The air medical services company began operations at Oceanside Municipal Airport in July 2013, and made 300 emergency service flights to serve major trauma patients within its first year.

“We’ve been able to prove that asset has been very beneficial to the area and Oceanside specifically,” Lyman said.

Flight operations at Jones Road are anticipated to begin in June.