Organ Transplantation Gets Major Boost Thanks to New Intermountain Life Flight Jet Dedicated to Organ Retrieval

Intermountain Life Flight officials announced on Monday the new alliance and unveiled their newest resource a Cessna Citation/CJ4 jet that will be used primarily to retrieve organs for transplantation in the Intermountain West. This is the first-of-its-kind high-speed aircraft in Utah that will be used for this purpose. 

The CJ4 aircraft is the first jet in Intermountain Life Flight’s fleet of fixed wing aircraft, which also includes three turboprop Beechcraft King Air airplanes and six medical helicopters. 

This aircraft will primarily be used by Intermountain Life Flight to more effectively and efficiently retrieve organs for Intermountain Donor Services for transplantation, according to Kent Johnson, director of aviation operations for Intermountain Life Flight, one of the premier air ambulance services in the nation. 

“With the Citation CJ4 we’re able to enhance and expand Intermountain Donor Services access to organs, retrieve organs more quickly, reduce overall costs for them, and provide an aircraft that has state-of-the-art avionics and safety features,” says Johnson. 

The CJ4 jet, which is expected to fly about 100 organ-retrieval missions for Intermountain Donor Services this year, will also be used for patient transports of over 300 miles from Salt Lake City, and will also serve as a backup to Intermountain Life Flight’s Beechcraft King Airs.

"Every minute an organ is outside of a donor's body it has an impact on the potential of that organ transplant working as it should," said Richard Gilroy, MD, medical director of the liver transplant program at Intermountain Medical Center.

That's why the aircraft is critically important in retrieving organs while it's still possible they can help people. 

The CJ4 jet provides higher speed than the turboprop Beechcraft (500 mph vs. 310 mph), increased range without fueling (2,100 miles versus 1,200 miles), fly at higher altitudes (45,000 feet versus 35,000 feet), which allows smoother flight above weather, and a less noisy environment. 

“Overall, this jet will help increase access to organs throughout the United States, reduce the cost of accessing those organs, and help us better serve patients outside Utah who need patient care in Salt Lake City,” Johnson added. 


Organ transplantation in Utah and in the Intermountain West is getting a major boost thanks to a new partnership between Intermountain Healthcare’s Life Flight air ambulance and rescue service and Intermountain Donor Services, the organ procurement agency that serves the region.