Answer Man: It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Mayo Four?

The other day I watched a medical helicopter attempt to land at Saint Marys Hospital. I could see two helicopters on the pad. But I’m not sure, there might have been more.

The one that wanted to land hovered for maybe a minute, then circled a couple of times until one on the pad took off.

How many helicopters can be on the pad at one time? How often does it happen that the pad is full, and one needs to leave before another can land? — Eyes to the Skies

You’ve asked the right person, Skies, but you already knew that, didn’t you?

I toured Mayo One operations a few years ago with my local Mensa chapter, so I’ve witnessed firsthand the multiple helicopter phenomenon atop Saint Marys Hospital.


I’ve seen at least five of the seven wonders of the world — make that six out of eight, for the sight I behold in the mirror every morning — but even I was struck by the expanse of Mayo’s hangar. During my tour, I watched two helicopters undergoing work, while two more helicopters took up residence on the pad.

So what’s the story? Here are some quick facts about Mayo One operations from the Clinic’s public affairs office (which also happens to know a thing or two about helicopters):

• Mayo One is really Mayo Four. The clinic has four helicopters. Three serve as primary response aircraft, with bases in Rochester, Mankato and Eau Claire, Wis. The fourth serves as a back-up to all bases.

• During normal patient flight operations there can be two helicopters on the pad atop Saint Marys at the same time. However, only one is permitted to take off or land at a time.

• During special conditions (such as when moved around for maintenance), there can be three choppers on the pad at one time and two in the hangar, for a total of five.

• Most helicopter maintenance is conducted in the hangar atop Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys Campus. Maintenance is also performed at the Mayo Clinic hangars at Mankato and Eau Claire. Engine overhauls are conducted in Dallas.

• Mayo Clinic averages about 2,400 flight hours per year. This includes Mayo Clinic’s helicopters and a King Air 350C airplane based at Rochester’s Signature Flight Support.

• The King Air has an optimal range of 600 miles each way to and from Rochester, and has an operations range of 1,200 miles without the need to refuel.


My range, meanwhile, is boundless.

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