Phillips 66 Aviation
September 15, 2023
PAGE, Az., September 13, 2023—The six-year-old boy was in danger of losing both legs from a horrific boating accident when the Classic Medical Air medevac team landed on the shores of Lake Powell in their specially equipped Bell 407 helicopter, carrying a pilot, flight nurse and paramedic well-trained in medical rescues.
For most fixed base operators (FBOs), managing fuel deliveries and demanding customers are stressful enough. But for Classic Aviation and its Classic Air Medical team, the stakes may be higher: the life and limbs of trauma victims – like that young boy’s – are often in peril. For years, the Phillips 66® Aviation FBO provided the sole medivac helicopter serving an immense swath of remote, rugged Colorado Plateau wilderness as vast as Connecticut.
Classic Air Medical and its medical evacuations are integral to the history of Classic Aviation – the longest-running FBO at Page Municipal Airport in Page, Arizona. What began as an air medical rescue service evolved into a full-fledged FBO when the City of Page required the facility to become a licensed FBO to store fuel on site for mounting medivac demand.
From their base near sprawling Lake Powell, Classic Medical has made a difference in the lives of many patients and family members, including many suffering traumatic injuries. With more than 3 million tourists trapsing, boating, backpacking and biking through a sweeping recreational destination, accidents and illness happen frequently. Classic also transports and rescues patients from across the mammoth Navajo Nation.
“When you’re severely hurt 150 miles from the nearest interstate, dealing with a traumatic injury becomes a matter of life or limb,” explains Matt Stein, Chief Operations Officer for Classic Air Medical, an Intermountain Healthcare company. “In 1988 Classic began with its first helicopter. There were awful traumas occurring among Lake Powell boaters, but it would take four hours or more to get to the nearest trauma center.”
Stein is well acquainted with stressful situations. He commanded an attack helicopter along the East German border during the Cold War when geopolitical tensions ran high before the Berlin Wall tumbled.
Once Stein joined Classic Air Medical, he piloted helicopters and medivac missions for 29 years until retiring as a pilot two years ago. All told, Stein flew 3,300 medical transports for Classic.
At first, Classic offered seasonal medical evacuations, assisting the National Park Service by transporting the ill and injured from Lake Powell to capable medical facilities. Demand became year-round and Classic grew rapidly, evolving to operate 22 air medical bases across the intermountain west – as well as four FBOs, three of them branded Phillips 66 Aviation. That impressive growth garnered the attention of Intermountain Health, a large, regional healthcare provider with 33 hospitals, which acquired Classic.
The FBO side of the business is now celebrating its 25th year. Classic Aviation offers everything a pilot and their passengers would want, from competitively priced fuel, quick turns, aircraft maintenance and catering, to a pet-friendly facility (with an outdoor grass relief area) and more.
“It is impressive how they all seem to maintain a cool and collected composure despite the high-stakes work they do with air evacuation,” says Diego Duran, Aviation Sales Manager – West/Southwest Region for CityServiceValcon, which supplies Phillips 66 jet fuel and avgas for Classic Aviation. “Safety is an absolute top priority for Classic Aviation, and it is embedded in their culture. From management to line service, they care deeply about their customers.”
Though now part of Intermountain Health, Classic Aviation maintains its humble, family-oriented beginnings. Stein’s wife Kristi runs the FBO business office, managing the high volume of fuel its customers consume. Returning customers are delighted to see a familiar face at the front desk, while their furry friends can always count on a welcoming treat from Kristi.
“Whether a Gulfstream 800 or a light sport, Classic treats all customers with great service and respect,” Stein says.
Phillips 66 Aviation provides not only brand recognition, explains Stein, but also a more reliable fuel source at Page Municipal Airport, remotely located near the Arizona-Nevada border. “Through CityServiceValcon, they get to us quicker using their own drivers and fuel trucks out of Phoenix,” Stein says. “Our customers can count on competitive fuel prices and dependability.”
Classic’s Page-based medevac fleet – fully decked for medical emergencies – now comprises a Pilatus PC-12 fixed-wing aircraft and two Bell helicopters, one of which flew that six-year-old victim of a boat-prop strike to a Salt Lake City trauma center, where his parents waited anxiously. There, doctors worked vigorously to save one of the boy’s legs, but the other had to be amputated.
Eleven months later, the boy returned with his parents and his new titanium prosthetic to reunite at Classic Aviation with his rescue team. He played soccer with Chad Bowdre, Classic’s marketing and communications manager, then boarded a Bell 407 for a specially arranged helicopter tour, all smiles.
Before the accident, the boy told the Lake Powell Chronicle, he’d planned on being a police officer. But after soaring over the grand Colorado Plateau in that gleaming red chopper, he now dreams of becoming a pilot.