Come To Me

I was the “Landing Officer” (aka Ground Contact) for a medical helicopter from Colorado’s Careflight of the Rockies yesterday — I’m a volunteer medic for Ouray County EMS.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day in Ouray yesterday — perfect day for a flight!

While I can’t discuss the medical reasons for having the chopper respond, that a chopper did land is obviously public knowledge.

I had a radio to talk directly to the pilot in one hand, and my phone in “camera” mode in the other, to get several photos and a short video, which are all cut together in this <1 minute clip:

Careflight 3 is a Eurocopter AStar B3, and has a crew of three: a flight nurse, a paramedic, and a pilot. It can carry one patient.

The Careflight choppers are designed to operate in high-altitude environments (very handy for Colorado!), and cruise at an air speed of 245 kph (132 knots, 152 mph). Interestingly, the crew has night vision goggles so they can operate at night.

Originally designated the Eurocopter AS350 Écureuil (Squirrel), it is a single-engine light utility helicopter originally designed and manufactured in France by Aérospatiale and Eurocopter, now Airbus Helicopters. In North America, the AS350 is marketed as the AStar.

15 Comments on “Come To Me

  1. That’s cool.

    A little narration would be appreciated.

    I can only do so many things at once, and watching safety and holding up my phone were about it at the time. But I did stick in some captions! -rc

    • Seriously? The man is a medic and doing something critically important, he’s not a newscaster! Besides, a voiceover would be extraneous: it’s rather obvious what’s going on, and the two included captions provided helpful context to what I was seeing.

      Thank you for not adding music, Randy! 😉

      Music?! *Shudder* 😀 -rc

    • I’ve watched the video now. That really looked like fun!

      Though you have to be in *really* bad shape to get flown out, right?

      Yes and no. They can also be “heading toward” bad shape, but there’s no hospital nearby that can keep that from happening. Our most-common example: head injury. Our local hospital doesn’t offer advanced head trauma care, and doesn’t have a neurologist available, even on an “on-call” basis. If they get a bad head injury case, they …fly the patient to a bigger hospital in Grand Junction, 90 minutes to the north, where that particular chopper happens to be based. So we “cut out the middle man” in the case of serious head injuries: it gets them to definitive care much faster, perhaps avoiding significantly worse outcomes, and skips the local hospital bill while we’re at it. -rc

  2. Thank you for taking care of our fellow coloradans in time of need!

    Colorado has been good to me. It’s my duty to give something back. -rc

  3. Thanks for taking the time to show us a very small part of the tremendous responsibility and great job you and others do to keep Coloradans safe!

    As I said in a previous comment reply, I feel it’s a duty to give back somehow. This is just something I have experience with. But I do try to help illustrate the “real world” things volunteers are doing so people can better understand the efforts put forth. I’m just one part of a very large team. -rc

  4. I was through Ouray about 30 days ago driving to Silverton, CO. You live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth Randy! I’m sure you already know that too.

    That’s part of why I’m here. 🙂 -rc

  5. I’ve done that a few times when I was in EMS (Indiana). Never gets old. We used to have a couple of old Viet Nam pilots. Once in a while, they would come in the old way. Straight in and straight down, as in a “dust off” procedure. Once I found myself yelling to those standing around to set up a defense perimeter, kinda embarrassing.

    Heh! Yeah, the guys here are really deliberate: mountain flying (read: much less lift in the thin air) makes them really cautious, and appropriately so. But I agree: never gets old! -rc

  6. Very cool. A couple of years ago I was volunteering for a bike event and we had a big enough trauma to call life flight. The local fire department set up the landing zone (top of the hill about 2 city blocks away) and I was working the radio at the scene. It was really impressive to see.

    Our patient took the flight and although banged up survived.

    Always nice to have a good outcome! -rc

  7. In the video, he drifts to our right (his left) and forward to the point where you had to back up (and put a caption mentioning that). Why did he do that? From what I could see in the video, that first patch of ground looked as good as the patch of ground he eventually chose to land on.

    I actually didn’t ask him, but I assumed so he would be a bit closer to where the ambulance would park. The ambulance can drive onto the lawn, but they prefer not to. -rc

  8. While I was in Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) in Saylor Park in Colorado in 1975, one of my classmates fell down a mountainside and gave himself a concussion. We wore fatigues very like those in use in Vietnam when doing the survival and evasion phase. An evac helicopter from either Denver or C. Springs came for him and the pilot was (not surprisingly) a Vietnam vet who commented it felt like what he did over there. The difference, of course, being the altitude and summer temperatures which made for a very high density altitude. That particular classmate ended up getting washed out — that was his sixth concussion and he had more (prone to it). TBI before there was a term for it.

    The USAF Academy stopped doing that training in 1995, moving it to Fairchild AFB in Washington. I had to look Saylor Park up: it’s a rural spot with a few dirt roads in the mountains about 10 miles NW of the Academy. -rc

  9. Beautiful, and always impressive. Several years ago there was a horrible car crash in front of our house, and the chopper landed in the field across the street. The noise and the wind were incredible! (The driver survived; the passenger was dead in the car.)

    Ouray County always looks as if it’s Pig Latin. I discovered it’s named after a chief of the Ute Nation. Interesting.

    Chief Ouray’s story is pretty interesting: there’s a good summary on Wikipedia. (To say the town’s name correctly, say “YOU-ray” — definitely never “Ooh-ray”.) -rc

  10. You think the “wind is intense” when you are as far away from that bird as you were? Try sitting in the door of an old Huey coming into a “hot” LZ (“hot,” they are shooting at you. “LZ,” Landing Zone.) It was a very nice bit of air conditioning for a moment while you jumped off the skid…5 or 10 feet into a rice paddy. Hopefully, you are not a short person, because you might sink into the mud, over your head in the water. And the farmers fertilized with human waste.

    Did I ruin your coffee?

    This post isn’t about comparing myself to soldiers, and it’s definitely not about putting myself in their shoes. Rather, it’s about letting everyday civilians get a tiny taste of what their public servants see and do every day to serve them in their time of need. Would it surprise you to learn that street medics suffer PTSD at more than four times the rate of soldiers? There are literally thousands of feature films to show aspects of soldiers’ struggles. Yet how do they hear about the daily lives of the civilian volunteers who can say “Here’s what happened today to give you a little taste of what’s happening around you right now”? I try to provide a little bit of that insight from time to time. I’ll challenge you to gain some insight from it, rather than try to one-up the experience with a memory from 40 years ago. -rc


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