Bart Gray, owner of Global Jetcare, of Brooksville, waits on confirmation to transport a client but the arrangements are tied up in red tape over a visa. The Ukrainian patient is in a hospital in Peru after being struck by a pallet of ice he was loading onto a cargo ship. His face is severely crushed.
“He needs facial reconstruction surgery and brain surgery and they don’t have the capability to do that in Peru,” Gray said.
The patient’s insurance company contacted Global Jetcare, wanting their client taken to a First World country, like Germany, where surgeons can handle the extensive procedures the injuries require.
Once they get the visa, Gray will prepare a plane to make the trip. He will then call available employees to prepare his flight team; a pilot, a co-pilot, and at least two medics which might include a paramedic, a registered nurse and a physician, depending on the urgency of the patient.
“They have one hour to get here,” Gray said.
After logistics are completed, the plane will depart from the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and fly to Peru. It will happen within two hours of receiving the authorization to fly.
Once in Peru, his medical team will evaluate the patient. The team then flies the patient to a country that will perform the necessary procedures.
The scenario is relatively common for Global Jetcare, a medical air transport business located inside the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport on Runway Drive.
Three planes make as many as 200 flights a year, across the globe, to carry patients who cannot fly on a commercial flight. The patients could be nursing home residents or accident victims in other countries who need specialized medical treatment.
“They may be on heavy oxygen or IV medications and require a nurse to accompany them,” said Christina Gray, Bart’s mother who runs the indoor operations at Global Jetcare. “Maybe they broke a hip and the whole family is someplace else and they want them in a hospital near them.”
With 24 employees and three aircraft, Global Jetcare is officially based in Denver but satellites out of Hernando County. All employees are from central Florida and most live and work other jobs within the county.
Bart Gray began building the business from scratch in early 2009, after selling his stake in a similar business to his partner in January of that year.
“We had no planes, no crew, nothing,” he said.
Yet he was able to negotiate lease contracts on the aircraft, hire a team of ten local employees, and was ready to take flight in April 2009.
But Global Jetcare sat dormant, waiting to obtain the required certificates and licenses from the FAA. They were told it would take up to five years because the FAA in Tampa was backlogged.
“The FAA essentially grounded us for lack of manpower,” he said. And they told him, in essence, to take his business elsewhere.
But Gray is resourceful. He began working as a pilot at age 22, opened a medical air transport business with a partner in 2003 and regrouped in 2009 to go it alone. He wasn’t swayed by the jolt to his plan and, instead, looked elsewhere for solutions.
He found a company in Denver that had all the licenses and certificates to operate but had no planes, staff or clients.
“It was the perfect fit for us,” he said. “I purchased that business and we merged the two.”
They run a tight business, with a dedicated team that includes physicians, paramedics, registered nurses, pilots and copilots. Three aircraft are customized to run flights globally. Gray staffs a full-time mechanic who does most of the maintenance on-site.
Christina Gray said the company was one step away from closing shop in 2009. They even contacted local politicians and the media for help after being told they should consider moving their business outside of Florida.
The Tampa FAA has contacted him now that the company is operating. They want to oversee the operations, but Gray is reluctant.
“I’m not sure we’re ready to do that just yet,” he said.
Email Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame, Hernando at email@example.com.
Biz at a glance
Name: Global Jetcare
Address: 16479 Runway Drive; Brooksville, FL 34604
Phone: (352) 799-7771