EDINBURG - Air Med 1, a Bell 407 rotor helicopter ambulance is now officially in use for Hidalgo County EMS and South Texas Air Med.

A ribbon cutting was held at the South Texas International Airport Tuesday to mark the occasion.

Air Med 1 is the promise of Hidalgo County EMS owner Kenneth Ponce to fulfill the need for a rotor ambulance after Air Evac Lifeteam ceased their South Texas operations in June.

The rotor ambulance will help with the Golden Hour, the crucial time between an accident and when paramedics have to stabilize patients, making their odds of survival greater.

“It was something we were working on before the end of last year and it was kind of a shock that Air Evac was leaving in February,” Ponce said. “It pushed us quicker to get this done because the coverage is needed in South Texas for a service like this.”

The Bell 407 has some speed. It takes roughly 15 minutes to reach the northern county line from McAllen. It is staffed with a pilot, paramedic and a nurse. The rotor ambulance will help in a Level 1 trauma situation which in turn serves as marking a check box for the Rio Grande Valley to operate in that tag.

A regular ambulance would take at least 30 to 45 minutes to reach the northern county line.

Hidalgo County EMS is not new to the air transport. Ponce said they have two aircrafts to help transport patients but adding a rotor to the detail came with more paperwork and brand new Federal Aviation Administration clearance.

“It's needed and it will do wonders for the counties,” Ponce said.

The South Texas International Airport is ideally situated for Air Med 1 to be housed. With the county being sparsely populated the ability to get an air evacuation is crucial.

State Representative Terry Canales (TX-40) said the reality is Hidalgo County is taking a milestone leap into the future.

“Today you are watching the beginning of the infrastructure that is necessary for South Texas that are necessary to protect its citizens,” he said. “Without the investment of the infrastructure today, the progress will stop.”