Ground Critical Care Program

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Ground Critical Care Program

We need your help to ensure LifeFlight can get to Maine’s most critically ill and injured patients—no matter when or where they need us.

Over the past 25 years as the state’s only emergency air ambulance service, LifeFlight has safely transported and cared for more than 36,000 patients. It seems almost everyone in Maine has a LifeFlight story. The calls for help come from mountains, lakes, and coastal islands; from highways, trails, and main streets; and most importantly, from local hospitals across the state.

All these LifeFlight patients have one thing in common—every minute matters. Their chances of survival and quality of life depend on LifeFlight’s ability to safely traverse Maine’s vast expanse, rugged terrain, and challenging weather. The vehicles in LifeFlight’s fleet are equipped as fully functioning mobile intensive care units, bringing advanced skills, medical technology, pharmacy, blood, and more directly to a patient’s side. 

When LifeFlight aircraft cannot fly because of weather or maintenance needs, our crews must get to the patient by ground. This is the case with 26% of LifeFlight missions currently, and for a variety of reasons that number is expected to increase in the years ahead.

For the past two decades, LifeFlight has partnered with municipal and private ambulance services to provide ground response: our medical teams travel with the patients in our partners’ ambulances.  

Because of the current crisis in Emergency Medical Services in Maine and across the country, our valued partners are often not able to meet our needs.

This impacts our overall reliability.

Because the ground transports occur in our partners’ vehicles, LifeFlight receives no reimbursement for these missions.

This impacts our financial sustainability.

The acquisition of ground ambulances and the implementation of a formal ground program will help ensure that Maine’s critically ill and injured patients continue to get the care they need, even in adverse conditions. Our highly skilled nurses and paramedics will be able to reach patients across Maine when they need us, by helicopter, airplane or in our own ground vehicles. 

LifeFlight appreciates the 25 years of partnership with local ambulance services that helped us reach thousands of patients who needed critical care. With the demand for LifeFlight increasing each year, and with rural EMS services struggling to meet local needs, it is time for LifeFlight to invest in its own critical care ground transport vehicles.

We need your help to make this happen.

Estimated Costs & Timeline

Invest in this important new fleet initiative for LifeFlight of Maine.

The cost of each new critical care ground transport vehicle is $640,000 and we need three—one to be stationed at each existing LifeFlight base in Bangor, Lewiston, and Sanford. 

We need your help to secure $1,920,000 by June 2024. 

LifeFlight provides much more than just patient transport. ICU-level care begins as soon as the crew reaches the patient. Each vehicle in the LifeFlight fleet is equipped with specialized medical equipment valued at more than $500,000, including a portable laboratory, ventilator, ultrasound, infusion pumps, and other diagnostic and critical care treatment tools that are not readily available at many rural hospitals.

Initially, the specialized medical equipment needed for each ground vehicle will be transferred from LifeFlight of Maine’s existing rapid-response, non-patient carrying vehicles known as “fly cars,” so we do not need to budget costs for medical equipment at this time.

November 2022 


Three diesel chassis ordered from FreightLiner of Maine   

LifeFlight opted for a longer chassis which comes with a crew cab, an important safety and comfort feature for our medical teams who traverse Maine to reach and transport patients in all kinds of weather. 

September 2023


Chassis will be delivered to Life Line Emergency Vehicles (Iowa)

Life Line will complete the “box” of the ambulance to meet LifeFlight’s unique specifications. The “box” is the compartment where the patient is treated by the crew.

June 2024


Completed new critical ground transport vehicles delivered to LifeFlight of Maine

Summer is the busiest time of the year for LifeFlight, so we need the new fleet to be in service and ready to transport patients by July 1, 2024. 

For more information: Kate O’Halloran | 207.314.5230 |

Supplemental Information

I thought “LifeFlight” meant air-medical transport. Why is there a ground program too? 

LifeFlight of Maine transports and cares for more than 2,500 critical patients annually. Our teams reach the patients by ground transport when the helicopters and airplane are unavailable due to weather, maintenance, or because they are in the air on other missions. LifeFlight also travels by ground when our critical care expertise is required but air transport does not make sense—such as for short distance transports or due to patient size. Ground transport is used in 26% of LifeFlight missions, and the demand for ground capability is increasing every year. 

LifeFlight has been around a long time. Why are you buying ground vehicles now? 

For the past two decades, LifeFlight has partnered with various 

municipal and private ambulance services to provide ground response; our medical teams travel with the patients in our partners’ ambulances. Because of the current crisis in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Maine and across the country, our valued partners are often not able to meet our needs, which impacts our overall reliability. 

How will LifeFlight’s vehicles be different from other ambulances? 

Most ambulances are primarily designed for patient transports, and generally those transports are over short distances. What has always made LifeFlight special is the fact that we bring the ICU to the patient—a sophisticated level of care supported by advanced medical equipment is provided as soon as the crew reaches the patient. The combination of time, treatment, and talent makes the difference and is critically important. For most of these patients, minutes matter.  

What are the financial implications for LifeFlight of owning and operating its own ambulances? 

The initial investment for three new ground ambulances is $1,920,000. While the primary motivation for this investment is to better and more reliably serve the people of Maine, it is important to note that LifeFlight currently does not receive any financial reimbursement for ground transports (the partner agencies who own and operate the ambulances receive the reimbursement). Given that ground response missions now comprise 26% of our annual transports and are increasing every year, this practice is not financially sustainable. By owning and operating our own ground fleet, LifeFlight will be eligible for reimbursements, just as we are for our air transports.

Where will the ground critical care transport vehicles be based?

A vehicle will be stationed at each of LifeFlight’s current bases in Bangor, Lewiston, and Sanford. 

Will a patient get to choose whether to accept critical care transport by ground ambulance rather than by LifeFlight helicopter or airplane?

How a patient is transported is a decision made by a physician. The type of transportation is dictated by the condition of the patient, how quickly they need to be moved, and the distance to the next level of care. 

Will LifeFlight-owned critical care ground transport vehicles take business away from local ambulance services? 

LifeFlight appreciates the almost 25 years of partnership with local services. They have helped LifeFlight reach thousands of patients who needed critical care when aircraft could not fly. LifeFlight’s critical care vehicles will not supplant local ones, but will allow ambulances and drivers to stay in their home territory serving their local community, with the ability to complete three or four transports in the time it takes for a single LifeFlight long-distance mission. 

What is the timeline for these critical care transport vehicles?  

Supply chain issues remain a challenge, so the chassis for the three new ground ambulances were ordered in November 2022. The chassis will be delivered to Iowa-based Life Line Emergency Vehicles during Fall 2023 for installation of the ambulance “boxes.” We anticipate delivery of the vehicles by June 2024.

Were electric vehicles considered? 

The chassis will be powered by diesel. Unfortunately, electric-powered vehicles cannot be considered at the present time because of the long distances needed for patient transport.

If LifeFlight crews are out doing ground transports, does that mean the helicopters and airplane are not available to transport patients? 

Transport by helicopter or airplane remains LifeFlight’s first option for patients. However, when weather, maintenance, or other circumstances mean that aircraft are not available to fly, the medical crew will be able to reach patients with the critical care ground vehicles.  

Do other air medical transport organizations have ground programs/vehicles? 

Because bad weather and aircraft maintenance requirements affect all air medical programs, most include a ground component. All the New England programs (i.e., Boston MedFlight, DHART) either have a ground program or are planning to add one.

LifeFlight is a charitable nonprofit organization supported by its originating parent organizations, Northern Light Health and Central Maine Healthcare. LifeFlight’s aviation services are provided by its wholly owned subsidiary, LifeFlight Aviation Services. 

LifeFlight is licensed by the state of Maine, is a participating provider with Medicare, MaineCare, and most major insurance carriers, and maintains compliance with applicable state and federal laws. 

For information on compliance with 49 U.S.C. Section 43202, please visit DOT Aviation Consumer Protection Division. For information on the No Surprises Act, please see our Patient Resources Page.