On Friday, they celebrated.

In 1978, LDS Hospital and Primary Children's Medical Center inaugurated one of the nation's first medical air transport systems - Life Flight. Using helicopters and turbo-prop airplanes, the program has transported more than 8,600 critically ill or injured patients quickly and safely, making Life Flight a national leader in air medical transport.This year marks not only the 10th anniversary of the program, but one million accident-free miles flown.

Friday, the service celebrated its first decade and a remarkable safety record, especially considering the area's size, geography and climate.

Hospital officials said Life Flight routinely serves a region equal to one-seventh the total area of the continental United States, comprising the states of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, western Colorado, eastern Nevada, northern Arizona and New Mexico, and all of Utah.

Its longest flight was to Gainesville, Fla., but most flights occur within four hours round-trip flying time of Salt Lake.

The planes and helicopters are staffed by LDS Hospital or Primary Children's physicians, transport nurses, emergency medical technicians or paramedics. Pilots are required to have 7,000-10,000 hours of flight time, with five to seven years of experience - including flight time in high-mountain terrain.

When it began in 1978, Life Flight was the seventh hospital-based air transport system in the country. Today, there are more than 200.

Life Flight annually transports more than 800 critically ill or injured patients and serves all hospitals within the Intermountain West.