Monday, October 6, 2014
For our training, they landed in a parking lot and then we proceeded to a classroom, where we learned lots of useful things. They fly Agusta helicopters, with a 150 mph cruising speed in the summer, and 130 mph in the winter when they add the skis (they get a lot of ski resort business in the winter). They have hoist capabilities, but that takes some extra time to set up before they start the mission. It took them just under an hour to fly to our location, and it takes about 5-8 minutes to get into the air from the time they get a call. They have enough fuel to get to our location and part way back, but have to do a refueling stop on the return flight.
Life Flight flies day and night. At night they use night vision goggles, so they gave us some guidance of what lights they want on the ground when they come so they know where to go but aren't blinded. We also went over the landing zone criteria, especially for the backcountry.
They gave us a tour of the helicopter. The usual crew is the pilot, a paramedic, and a flight nurse. They have room for one patient on a gurney. Because of the high level of training of the crew, they are essentially operating a mobile intensive care unit.
The crew talked about how to approach the helicopter and other safety precautions. I've heard most of it before, but a refresher is good because I simply don't deal with helicopters that often.
After a couple hours they lifted off and headed back. They had been surprised on their way out here about the vast stretch of "nothingness." When you travel at 150 mph and think that, it gives you a good idea how remote we are! It sure is nice to know that even though we are remote, we have access to top-notch medical care, although it will take a little while to get here.
Life Flight's website if you'd like to learn more about their bases, aircraft, history, and more.