Air Methods celebrates Native Air 1’s 25th Anniversary


Humble beginnings lead to decades of providing emergent medical care to those who need it most

Mesa, AZ – Oct. 21, 2022 – Native Air 1 celebrated a momentous occasion of 25 years of service to the East Valley community on Oct. 20. Along with past and present crew members, hospital executives, local partners and a former patient, Native Air 1 reminisced over the program’s history throughout the years.

“Let me take you back to 1995 when Rick Heape founded Native American Air Ambulance to service the underserve tribal nations,” said Air Methods Account Executive Nicola Crim, providing remarks during the celebration. “Heape was a member of the Cherokee tribe and saw a need to service the rural communities and helped them gain critical care access.”

The Native Air 1 base was established in 1997 and has since provided 24/7 emergency access to the East Valley and beyond for more than two decades. As the first rotor-wing base in the state of Arizona under the Native Air brand, Native Air 1 crews have completed more than 10,000 patient transports since opening.

Native Air 1 had humble beginnings at Gateway Airport, then relocated to Gilbert Hospital and spent a number of years serving the community before the hospital closed prompting another relocation. In 2018, the Native Air crew found their home base at Dignity Health Arizona General Hospital in Mesa.

“We have enjoyed our strong partnership with Native Air, which helps us to provide critical access to medical care,” said Dignity Health Arizona General Hospital President and CEO Jane Hanson. “With a direct link from flight crews to our doctors and nurses in the Emergency Department, we know our partnership provides efficient, patient-centered care for the East Valley community.”

Sharing his recent experience with critical care access, former patient Thomas Walsh, described in detail his gratitude for the service and relationships Native Air has with local EMS and first responders.

“It’s a partnership. Everyone did their job the way they were trained to do,” said Walsh. “The fact is, I would have been a dead man on June 11 had the Native Air crew not done their job. I’m here today because of them. Every team involved—from the ground EMS to air EMS, to the hospital teams—I must give them all gratitude for saving my life.”

Native Air is operated by Air Methods, the leading air medical service provider in the U.S. To date, Air Methods has opened eight base locations throughout the state under the Native Air program. The high-caliber crew of Native Air 1 is staffed by 14 people—registered nurses, paramedics, pilots, and mechanics. They operate an A-Star 350 aircraft and are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment.

Additionally, Native Air is stocked with whole blood to be administered in-flight during prehospital air medical transport for patients who are suffering significant blood loss and are at risk for hemorrhagic shock, which causes the body’s organs to fail and can lead to death. With so many rural areas, the skilled crews coupled with advanced equipment provide a fast response and mean all the difference in saving lives now and for many years to come.

For photos of the 25th Anniversary Celebration, click here.


About Air Methods

Air Methods ( is the nation’s leading air medical service, delivering lifesaving care to more than 100,000 people every year. With over 40 years of air medical experience, Air Methods is the preferred partner for hospitals and one of the largest community-based providers of air medical services. United Rotorcraft is the company’s products division specializing in the design and manufacture of aeromedical and aerospace technology. Air Methods’ fleet of owned, leased, or maintained aircraft features more than 450 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

For interviews, contact:                                                                                 

Denisse Coffman
Vice President of Corporate Communications
Air Methods Corporation