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One of UW Health Med Flight's two helicopters sits in a hangar on the roof of UW Hospital. The second one is based at the Iowa County Airport near Mineral Point.

As UW Health Med Flight prepares to expand to Portage in July, the medical helicopter service is switching the company that provides its helicopters and pilots.

The change from Colorado-based Air Methods to Louisiana-based Metro Aviation, to take place at the end of May, will allow Med Flight to use larger helicopters, said UW Health spokeswoman Toni Morrissey.

The larger choppers can accommodate bigger medical teams and fly farther before refueling, Morrissey said.

She said the switch to Metro Aviation is not related to the crash last April of an Ascension Health Spirit helicopter in northern Wisconsin. The crash, involving an Air Methods helicopter, killed its crew of three.

It was the the first fatal medical helicopter incident in Wisconsin since a Med Flight crash near La Crosse in 2008, which also killed its crew of three and involved Air Methods.

Med Flight’s contract with Air Methods ends May 31. A request for proposals from other vendors was issued last summer, and Metro Aviation was selected, Morrissey said.

Air Methods had supplied Med Flight with two Eurocopter-135s. One is based at UW Hospital, the other at the Iowa County Airport near Mineral Point.

Med Flight plans to add a third hub in July, at Divine Savior Healthcare in Portage.

“We decided to create another regional base to cut response times for people in north-central Wisconsin,” Frank Erdman, manager of critical care transport for UW Health, said in a statement announcing the expansion in November.

Metro Aviation will eventually supply three Eurocopter-145s, along with four pilots for each aircraft and a maintenance crew for the fleet, Morrissey said. Initially, the aircraft will be a mix of Eurocopter-135s and Eurocopter-145s, she said.

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David Wahlberg is the health and medicine reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.