A business dispute between two aviation companies over the use of ramps at the Van Nuys Airport could threaten emergency helicopter flights for Southern California children who are injured or severely ill, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Children's Hospital Los Angeles relies exclusively on two helicopters from Helinet Aviation, which makes hundreds of flights for the hospital each year to transport children with serious complications or injuries.
Helinet helicopters also transport physicians from Children's Hospital to hospitals as far as Bakersfield and Palm Springs.
In addition, the helicopters often carry donated organs to UCLA Health System, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Keck Hospital of USC and Loma Linda University Medical Center.
On March 9, Pentastar Aviation sent a letter to Helinet instructing the company to move its helicopters from the ramps where they wait to depart.
Helinet received another letter threatening eviction and legal proceedings when it did not comply with the first request.
Helinet has filed a lawsuit against Pentastar and Basenet, a company involved in leasing at the airport, in an attempt to stop the eviction.
Alan Purwin, president of Helinet, said that if he has to move the helicopters, they will not be able to get off the ground as quickly. He said, "It is not practical or realistic to put every one of our helicopters in a hangar."
Judy Sherif -- who manages the emergency transport program at Children's Hospital -- said she has been told the flights might not get airborne as quickly if the helicopters vacate the ramps. According to the Times, the helicopters are supposed to arrive on top of the hospital within 12 minutes to pick up a medical team.
Sherif said, "Every second can be the cutoff between [patients] surviving and not surviving."
Pentastar declined to comment on the dispute (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 4/11).