LIFE STAR History Told in Take-offs and Landings

When it comes to saving lives, the sky is no limit.

Hartford Hospital’s LIFE STAR, a critical-care transport helicopter, flies an average of three times a day, bringing critically ill patients within a 150-mile radius to the hospital from wherever a medical emergency takes place.

Because minutes can mean life or death in a serious trauma situation, LIFE STAR is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and has priority over every other plane in its air space, except that of the U.S. president.

LIFE STAR teams have transported more than 32,000 patients in its 30-year history, mostly to Hartford Hospital’s Level 1 Trauma Center. The crew members have saved literally thousands of lives.


Every time LIFE STAR flies, about 60 people spring into action: the five-member crew which consists of a pilot, flight nurse, flight respiratory therapist, mechanic and communication specialist; and the nurses, doctors, and ICU specialists based at the hospital.

Stuart Markowitz addressing the audience at the 30th Anniversary of the LIFE STAR program

LIFE STAR was the first air transport team in the nation to receive the Silver Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Traditionally given to hospital ICUs, the award recognizes caregivers in stellar units whose care optimizes patient outcomes.

At the Helm

Hartford Hospital’s first helicopter traveled from Provo, Utah, to Hartford in June 1985. It was piloted by Rocky Mountain Helicopters’ Richard Magner and Tom Barclay, both of whom then became the first LIFE STAR pilots at Hartford Hospital.

Both Magner and Barclay retired in May 2016 after 31 years of service with LIFE STAR. Their careers included hundreds of flights, which included responding to the Connecticut Lottery headquarters shootings in 1998. In 1969, Magner’s own life had been saved by a medical helicopter crew in Vietnam when the chopper he was flying came under heavy fire and he took a bullet in the jaw.

Henry Churchill, formerly of LifeNet of New York Air Medical Program, became LIFE STAR’s newest pilot after Magner and Barclay’s departure. As a boy, Churchill worked at Hartford’s Brainard Airport, where he frequently interacted with the LIFE STAR crew and became interested in aviation.