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Mayo choppers get new landing pad atop St. Marys CUTLINE: Mayo's new $2 million heliport is located atop the 10th floor at St. Marys Hospital. Officials say it will aid response times and reduce the hassles associated with having crews stuck at the Roches

Mayo choppers get new landing pad atop St. Marys Mayo's new $2 million heliport is located atop the 10th floor at St. Marys Hospital. Officials say it will aid response times and reduce the hassles associated with having crews stuck at the Rochester airport. CUTLINE: Medical director Dr. Scott Zietlow says the new heliport will make Mayo air transport operations more efficient. @etp Mayo Clinic's medical helicopter has moved onto a new pad.

Atop the 10th floor of the expanding St. Marys Hospital, Mayo One has been operating out of the new location since earlier this month.

Thursday evening, hospital officials showed off their new $2 million landing pad to a crowd of more than 200 neighbors -- people who put up with the sometimes-late-night sounds of engines and blades whirling above.

Because of construction at St. Marys, the helicopter had flown from the top of a parking ramp to the south of the hospital for close to two years.

During inclement weather, the helicopter was housed at Rochester International Airport, which then required medical crews to stay there while waiting for calls.

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Prior to expansion of St. Marys, the helicopter flew from atop the hospital's third floor. Mayo officials hope the added seven stories in height will reduce some noise for neighbors.

``We're up above almost all the obstructions, which is nice for both the pilots and the neighbors,'' said John Jordan, the program's chief flight nurse.

Started in 1984, the Rochester portion of the Mayo One program flies more than 600 flights a year from St. Marys.

Mayo officials say the new location should aid response times and reduce the hassles associated with having crews stuck at the airport.

``It gets us back to being a hospital-based program,'' said Dr. Scott Zietlow, one of two medical directors for Mayo's air transport operations. ``We're much more efficient being here.''

The helipad is located above the southwest section of St. Marys. Large elevators connect the roof to emergency and surgical suites on the first and second floor of the building.

The view from on top of the pad stretches for several miles. New high-intensity lights have been installed, which should aid landings during low visibility conditions.

Like the previous pad, heating elements beneath the concrete will melt ice and snow. It's large enough to accommodate two helicopters at once, something that is necessary when other hospitals fly patients to St. Marys.

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Adjacent to the pad, a new hangar is large enough to store Mayo's Rochester and Eau Claire helicopters. Pilots and other staff also have sleeping areas and offices nearby.

Although wind gusts on the higher rooftop pad are stronger than they were at the old pad, pilots say they feel safer flying into the new location.

Edward Reicher, one of four Mayo One pilots, said the higher perch offers ``clean air'' for take-offs and landings. He said lower landing sites suffer from potentially dangerous swirling drafts created by wind ricocheting off buildings and other structures.

But whether the added height has made a difference in noise depends on who you ask.

``When it was down lower, we could feel the vibration when it took off,'' said Sally Hodge, who lives a block west of the hospital. ``It doesn't do that anymore.''

Others aren't so sure the added height has made much of a difference. ``Maybe a little bit,'' said Karen Warfield, who also lives a block west of St. Marys.

Still other neighbors say they have gotten used to the whirl of the helicopter's blades.

``It doesn't bother me in the least bit,'' said another neighbor to the west, who wouldn't give her name. ``It's a fact of life here.'' @et

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