Premier Bone & Joint air fleet transports doctors across state

By IKE FREDREGILL Laramie Boomerang Via Wyoming News Exchange

LARAMIE -- A sliver of light crept across the horizon as Cody Diekroeger wiggled the ailerons Thursday of a Beechcraft Kingair C90A during his preflight inspection.
Clad in a brown leather bomber jacket, khaki pants and alligator-skin cowboy boots, the clean-shaven pilot shrugged off the brisk 7-degree predawn air as he walked around his plane.
“I’m just making sure all the parts are in the right places and everything is moving freely,” Diekroeger said. “I’ve got to make sure the tires are up and check the level of the oil. These are actually jet engines connected to the propellers.”
As chief pilot and director of transportation for Premier Bone & Joint Centers, Diekroeger flies medical specialists across the state on a regular basis. His flight plan Thursday included taking Dr. Eric Harris for a quick jaunt up to Douglas before popping down to Cheyenne and returning to Laramie by 4 p.m.
“We fly our physicians across about three-quarters of the state,” Diekroeger said. “Many of our patients don’t even realize their doctors don’t live in that town, because we usually get them there before the clinic opens and bring them back at the end of the day.”
With four Kingair aircraft, three full-time pilots and one part-time pilot, Premier Bone & Joint’s air fleet flies to Gillette, Rawlins, Rock Springs, Douglas, Casper, Riverton, Torrington and Cheyenne, he said.
“Our longest flight is to Gillette and takes about an hour,” Diekroeger said. “(Thursday’s) flight to Douglas only takes about 30 minutes, and from there, Cheyenne is about a 30 minute flight.”
The clinic bought its first Kingair in 1985 after a year of hiring limousines followed by a few years of chartering various aircraft to transport medical staff throughout Wyoming, he said. During the next three decades, Premier Bone & Joint assembled an air fleet.
“I started with the company in 2001,” Diekroeger said. “At that point, we purchased our second Kingair, with our third purchased in 2006 and fourth in 2009.”
The pilot said he was not aware of any other medical practice with as large a fleet of aircraft covering a similar scope of territory as Premiere Bone & Joint.
“In Wyoming, it’s really the only practical way to provide specialized medical care to such a sparsely populated state,” Diekroeger said.
Despite Laramie’s often inclement weather, Diekroger said his team only canceled about six of 1,120 flights in 2017.
“That’s about 658 hours of flight time last year with less than one percent of flights cancelled,” he said. “Winter is actually one of the better times for us to fly, because the air is colder and the planes operate a little smoother.”
Flying sturdy aircraft helps keep the weather cancellations to a minimum, Diekroger added.
“These planes are very reliable,” he said. “They’re like driving a tank.”
But the clinic couldn’t do it without Laramie Regional Airport Manager Jack Skinner and his crew.
“The staff here is great to work with,” Diekroeger said. “It’s almost like we’re family.”
Having recently moved to Laramie from San Diego, Harris, an orthopedic surgeon who completed his residency while serving 29 years in the Navy, said he was excited to join Premier Bone & Joints mobile medical team.
“It’s really cool to be able to be involved in this type of a practice model,” he said. “And, to be able to touch the lives of people all over the state instead of just in one small area — I think that’s the best part.”


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