“They’re Landing On My Car!”

Well, that’s the way it felt, anyway! For a brief moment.

Last fall I talked about helping a helicopter to land — in the middle of the highway in the middle of the night. Just got back from doing it again, except this time it was the middle of the day …and I had my camera ready.

Out and About

I had to pop into town to get a few things. “Town” is in the next county, about 30 minutes north. I had my pager on me, but coverage is a bit flaky up there, and I didn’t hear there was a call. (Not that I was needed; it was 40 minutes south of my house.)

When I got back in the car to head back to the office, I heard Ouray’s ambulance say they were headed to the hospital. Huh, I thought to myself. Wonder what they have?

Two-thirds of the way home is the tiny unincorporated town of Colona — where we landed the chopper in September. It’s literally a wide spot in the road, thanks to passing lanes in the highway starting at the south end of town. Straight, too, which is why it’s a great place to land a helicopter when needed.

Just as I was approaching Colona I heard the ambulance ask Dispatch to put the chopper on standby, with Colona as the landing zone. I guess they have something, then! I thought to myself. When I got to Colona I pulled over to wait and see if they wanted the chopper to launch.

About a minute later, the answer was yes: launch the chopper, to Colona.

I told Dispatch and the ambulance that I was in Colona, and would assist in the landing. The on-duty sheriff’s deputy was 20 miles away, but he hot-footed it my way to take the other end of the four-lane stretch. Chopper ETA: 16 minutes, Dispatch reported.

Unlike last time, that gave me a moment to set things up. I told Dispatch what frequency the chopper should use to contact me (“FERN” — a fire department mutual aid channel). And I grabbed my camera, and strapped it to my wrist!

Convergence

I got the ETA for the ambulance and the sheriff’s deputy. Pretty much, they — and the chopper — would all converge on Colona at the same time. A lot would happen all at once. I donned my day-glow yellow safety vest, and watched the clock.

The ambulance arrived first; I had them park behind me. I called for the chopper on FERN, and found they were a minute out. Rich, another First Responder who heard the call, arrived, and I sent him to the south end to close the road immediately. He pulled over and jumped out to stop traffic as I pulled my car around to stop the other direction. The sheriff’s deputy arrived to reinforce Rich’s position.

The only problem: the chopper wasn’t replying on the radio. I pulled it off my belt and looked at it: maybe it got knocked onto a different channel? Nope: the screen read “HW EEPROM ERR” — it had failed. One hell of a time to do that!

As the county communications guy, I (almost always!) have another radio. I grabbed another mic, called them, and they responded this time (whew!) I gave them wind conditions, and noted that there are no wires strung across the highway in this area, and that the highway is closed for them — it’s up to the pilot to decide exactly when and where to land.

The chopper approaches (tiny dot in middle sky). That’s my car in the foreground, pointed toward traffic so they can see my lights and get the idea: Stop! The landing zone is behind me.

We had 200-300 yards between the two traffic control positions, but the chopper pilot had other ideas:

They’re Landing On My Car! At least, that’s what it felt like! I was watching their glide slope and it looked like the landing spot would be right on top of me.

But at the last second…

…she made a 90-degree turn and set down immediately behind the ambulance, with only about 10 feet between her rotor tips and the modular rig parked on the shoulder.

I’m ducking behind my door since I knew the rotor wash would blow a bunch of sand and such at me. My hand is on the door because I know the wind is going to try to slam it on me. It did try, but I was ready!

Landed.

 

Ready to Help

Typical flight crew: a pilot, a flight nurse (who is capable of doing high-level medical interventions), and a paramedic (who has a lot of “street” experience and can get patients packaged up quickly, as well as assist the flight nurse).

I know Bob: he’s one of our local Medics who also works shifts on the local chopper. I thought I had recognized his voice on the radio!

Once everything was secure and the blades wound down to motionless, I pulled my car around so it was “outside” the scene to block traffic:

Keep clear.

As the flight nurse and medic checks out the patient, the pilot gets out and surveys the scene.

Imagine if you were the guy in the white Suburban, thinking you were well out of the way, and a helicopter lands on the road right in front of you! I told him he might want to back up a bit, since when they take off they’ll blast sand again. He thought about it for a few minutes …and backed up.

It’s fairly traditional for the pilot to speak to the ground officer, so she popped over. “Did you get confused by the way my car was pointed?” I asked her, surprised that she chose a really tight “parking spot” to land, rather than the huge wide-open space we left for them between the two control points. “No,” she said. “I just saw I had enough room there, and I asked the paramedic, ‘Shall I just set down there?’ and he said ‘Yes! Closer is better!'”

I’m gonna have to have a little talk with Bob: the ambulance has wheels, and once the chopper sets down, ambulances actually have the amazing ability to move — they can drive up to choppers, getting as close as the flight crew wants!

Best Facility

I can’t talk about the patient’s condition, but she needed care that she couldn’t get in Montrose. St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, 70 miles north, has the ability to handle neurological problems (such as head injuries and stroke cases), and Montrose doesn’t. Patients with such conditions get transferred to St. Mary’s anyway, and often by air, so why not shave 20 minutes off the transport and send the patient directly to St. Mary’s? That’s what happened here.

Once they had the patient bundled up, I knew they’d leave pretty quickly. I pulled my car another 10 yards away to keep it from getting sandblasted, and switched my camera to “video” mode to get the takeoff:

(The link at the end of the video is a shortcut to this page — http://hop2.cc/chopper.)

Why can’t you see my light bar flash very often? The strobe flashes are really brief, and so is the time the shutter is open for video. They don’t correspond very often. The LEDs on the front grille are more obvious in video.

At least they didn’t actually go right over our heads. You can (barely) see Bob waving from the back window as they go by.

36 Comments on ““They’re Landing On My Car!”

  1. As always, you amaze me. How do you do it all?

    In a case like this, how much time is saved. If I got it right, the ambulance picked up the patient and stabilized her as necessary while bringing her to Colona (at least 20 minutes), then they transferred the patient to the copter (10 minutes), then to the hospital 70 miles away. About how long from the emergency call until the patient gets to the best hospital?

    I don’t know exactly, since I didn’t take any time notes. My guess is that she got to the more definitive care hospital by air about 10 minutes after she would have arrived at the smaller hospital by ambulance. They would have had to check her out if she arrived at the smaller hospital, so by skipping that we probably saved her an hour. If she indeed had neurological problems, that hour could mean death, or significant lifelong neurological deficit. -rc

  2. The closest I ever got to a helicopter was when I volunteered to use two of my ponies at a fundraiser for the disabled. One of those little “glass dragonflies” (I don’t know helicopters, but I’m sure someone will tell us what it is) landed right next to my horse trailer with my ponies tied to it! Thank heavens they were very well trained and didn’t freak out. We were parked under a tree, so I suspect the pilot didn’t see us, but it was really cool looking inside and seeing all the dials, knobs, and gizmos. It looks extremely complicated. I would love to get a ride in one one day, but not a medical helicopter. It usually means bad things.

    Unless you’re a medic, indeed! I’ve been in them several times, and they’re amazing machines. -rc

  3. I’m just impressed when events come together that you CAN put together some footage of it. It’s not a leisurely occupation that you can just wait or expect in advance, and it’s great pictures (and video) as well. Being in the right place at the right time….

  4. You and everyone that give your time to work for their fellow man are a godsend. I went through this when I had my stoke and you just don’t know how comforting y’all are at a time of what amounts to great fear by the patient. It’s such a small word but I thank all of you for what you do.

    You’re most welcome! -rc

  5. Randy, what’s your overall feeling on air transport? I have a paramedic friend in Louisiana (he blogs as Ambulance Driver) who feels they’re overused to the point of endangering the crews. I know here in Oklahoma I’ve heard of a couple of questionable cases. One was a woman in labor. Normal, low-risk labor. She was flown 40 miles or so. The other was a person with stab wounds from an alleged robbery. They were serious enough that the “victim” was released the next day from the hospital after less than 18 hours there (and the wounds were self-inflicted). These are anecdata, I admit. But do you feel like there’s an overuse of medical helos?

    Medical choppers are responsible for a lot of saved lives. That said, hell yes they’re overused, and we get a lot of pressure to use them, including in some really questionable situations (though not as bad as the cases you cite) so they get enough calls to justify their existence. Indeed, one crashed a week ago in Oklahoma (City) — though thankfully, not with a patient on board. Still, two of the three crew were killed, and the third probably isn’t having a nice day yet. Balance is needed. -rc

  6. Nice photos and video! We love our pilots here in the CA mountains — both the choppers and airplanes that lift out the injured and beat down the fires before they spread. An hour can absolutely make a difference between life and death. (But I can’t help but notice your roads are way wider than ours…;)

    Well yeah, down there they are! As noted, that’s a passing lane area. Up in the mountains they’re not that wide — or as straight. But you know how that goes, since you’re also from gold country. -rc

  7. I wish I’d had the video capability back in the 70s when I was on a volunteer mountain rescue team in southern California. We did a lot of helicopter work then (they still do today), and the images in my mind’s eye are spectacular — one-runner landings in rugged, steep terrain, difficult weather, etc. My thoughts are always with the pilot, crew, and patients on any type of medical or rescue flights like these. Thanks for the post!

    Glad to bring back some spectacular memories, Steve. -rc

  8. I’ve heard that NH’s Dartmouth Hitchcock helicopter, DART, is DHMC’s biggest money-write-off, but when I think of how urgently my fiance would have been flown from Springfield VT to Lebanon NH for an 860+ glucose and was denied flight due to wind and snow…. It’ll be a long time to convince me evachelos are overused vs. getting serious cases to the appropriate facility in less than ground-travel time.

    Read again what I said. MOST of the time they’re used very well. But it’s still true that there are now too many of them, and there’s pressure to use them even when not actually necessary. It’s a gut-wrenching decision: do you subject your patient to a $20,000 helicopter ride that may not be covered by insurance? You have to be pretty sure they need it. If they really do, great: go for it. If not, then resist the pressure. But the gray area in between is a bitch. -rc

  9. I had a helicopter fly me to a hospital with a brain aneurysm 3 years ago. I don’t remember any of it, but they kept in touch by phone with my husband while he drove to a major hospital 3 hours away. The doctors asked permission for surgery. The helicopter ride got me there and saved my life.

  10. Cool pix! Having been on the roads that would have been the alternative, I agree this is exactly what choppers are for. The risks to a ground ambulance fighting the time constraints would be tough, too, on top of the hospital shuffle. So glad the weather cooperated.

    It was indeed a beautiful day to fly — a nice change from recent snowstorms! -rc

  11. In May 2002 I was in a serious car crash and had to be airlifted from a small hospital in a rural area near my hometown of Rochester, NY, to a much better-equipped hospital in Rochester, which is about an hour away by car (IIRC). I’m incredibly thankful MercyFlight was available, because I was unconscious at the scene and every minute mattered.

    Home for me in ’02 was about two hours north of Rochester in a very rural area. I was in Rochester visiting friends and family at the time of the crash, and I’m very glad it happened in the Rochester area and not where I was living, because if I’d crashed up there, I don’t know if the hospital in the area could’ve handled the extent of my injuries, and if they couldn’t, it would have been at least an hour by ambulance south to a hospital that could. Who knows what the outcome would’ve been for me then? Medical choppers are an invaluable resource.

  12. After almost getting a rock almost in my eye I thought it best to jump in the ambulance and close the door…I wasn’t expecting the helicopter to land right next to the ambulance like that. I guess it worked fine though. Nice photos and description.

    Chase was the driver of the ambulance today. And yeah, none of us were expecting it to land there! I was pretty darned surprised too. I can’t imagine what it sounded like in the back of the ambulance having them land so close!

    P.S.: Chase is a pretty cool name for an ambulance driver! 🙂 -rc

  13. We have had helicopter crashes here, in one of the worst all 3 died, medical plane 6 died. The helicopter was returning after the emergency and flying in questionable weather and crashed about 5 minutes after takeoff. Being a medical pilot does not seem to make you a better pilot, but they do have to wait around and then be ready to go on seconds notice.

  14. It sounded like someone throwing about a kids sandbox worth of rocks against a metal box that you inside of. Oh wait! Someone did and I was! 🙂 Good thing that paint on that ambulance is tough!

    Chase opened up the rig as the helo was inbound to see if we needed anything and I said ‘yup! get in and shut the door, it’s about to get breezy!’ And it did.

    Dang I miss flying around in those birds. 🙁

    Ruth is a long-time buddy, and was the paramedic in the ambulance today. -rc

  15. I have been in one of the whirly birds once. Once was all I needed, more than I ever wanted, and I’m not sure if I’m glad that I don’t remember it.

    In 97, I was a passenger in the back seat of a van that did a couple of flips. From what I’ve been told, an ambulance took me to a local hospital, where I was stabilized for a couple of hours, and then I was airlifted to the regional trauma hospital.

    I still ended up a quadriplegic, but it wasn’t because of the medical staff. And it was, presumably, a lot more comfortable than the four-hour ambulance ride I took a couple of months later….

    Yeah, sometimes all of the king’s horses and all us king’s men can’t put you back together again. Wish we could. -rc

  16. Every time I see or hear life flight, I pray for the person who needs the help & for God to guide the helping hands. My son’s father earned a ride because of foolish young adults. He never recovered. I pray not just for the well being of that person, but with the hope that the families don’t have to go through what we did. Thank you to you & your brothers & sisters for providing your abilities to help others.

    Doing something foolish that leads to your own demise is eye-rolling. Doing something foolish that leads to someone else’s demise is tragic. This is why thinking is so important! -rc

  17. My question is…Do your choppers always shut down when picking up a patient? I know that here they do not shut down unless it will be for a prolonged time on the ground ie. more than 10 minutes.

    If it’s a truly critical patient and they want to save every second, they’ll do a “hot load”. Otherwise, it’s just a lot safer to shut down. -rc

  18. Brings back the memories. I had 25 years in EMS, can’t remember how many I’ve helped land (it was a rural area).

    The one I remember most was the one where I had a flashback (Viet Nam), as the chopper was gliding in for landing I yelled for everyone to take defensive positions on the perimeter, as it was one of the few “hot” loads we ever did. I did get some strange looks.

    I’m glad you (apparently!) got over it quickly. I can see why that would be a vivid memory, though! THANK YOU for your years of service — military and civilian. -rc

  19. I spent years working offshore on research ships. Most of the time they choppered us back and forth for the crew change — cheaper and quicker than bringing a ship to port for a day or 2. Back in the 80s all the choppers I flew in had an almost sweaty rancid smell to them. The pilot told me it was the smell of fear and that most people when scared left an odor that absorbed into the fabric seats. I don’t know if that is true or not. Me I loved it but they can be very shaky, You are in an aluminum structure hanging from a very large fan blade. We once flew between 2 water spouts. That was a bit scary but amazing at same time. Everyone should ride in one at least once in ther lifetime, just hopefully not while being lifeflighted. Great article.

    I’ve never understood the fear of flying. If nothing else, the view is wonderful! -rc

  20. Many thanks to all the people who are involved in these events. I am alive and well because of their knowledge and dedication. I had a massive heart attack 3 years ago and got my ride in a helicopter. When the paramedics arrived I had no discernible blood pressure — according to them and my wife, who is an experienced OR nurse. From the time I passed out until I was wheeled into the ER of a major hospital more than 30 miles away was perhaps 40 minutes. I had more than a 99% blockage in my left main artery; my doc says he has no idea how I survived. Three years later and I am riding my bike 30 miles on Rails to Trails with no problems. I’ll be 70 years old next December. Many thanks to Randy and all the people who are involved in these rescues.

    Great to hear of such a good outcome! So often, we never hear. It’s never too late to tell your rescuers thanks, and how you did after they handed you off. I still wonder about some of my patients from the 80s. -rc

  21. Heh! The smell of fear. Being a civilian operation, and one that doesn’t depend on customer rating, I more suspect it was just a lack of regular cleaning and that just made a good line for the uninitiated. I’ve only ridden in a chopper one time, and that was a cargo chopper provided by MAC (Military Airlift Command) for bunch of us sailors taken off an aircraft carrier. Couldn’t see jack; might as well ridden in a cargo container. But no particular smell. Still, I can’t help remembering that line from “Airplane.”

    “Nervous?”
    “Uh-huh.”
    “First time?”
    “Oh, no, I’ve been nervous lots of times.”

    I am serious — and stop calling me Shirley. -rc

  22. 1. At Westchester County (NY) Medical Center the helipad is right next to a huge LOX tank. Nothing bad has happened — yet.

    2. Depending on the vehicle, 2 hours north of Rochester NY is either in Lake Ontario or in Canada, after crossing the lake, there is no bridge.

    3. Elevating a call from BLS to ALS is a similar time/cost/quality of care/condition decision. I’ve worked with both kinds of people: those who strongly resist elevating any call and those who would elevate terminal hangnail. The cost factor and logistics with helicopters makes training for this type of decision a lot more crucial and the management of the decision makers a lot more difficult.

    LOX is liquid oxygen. BLS is Basic Life Support (such as an EMT), ALS is Advanced Life Support (such as a paramedic). A “Basic Crew” is expected to call in ALS if the patient needs more care. -rc

  23. As a former MEDEVAC (helicopter ambulance) Pilot, I can tell you that helicopter ambulances are not over-used. The cost of the flight precludes most abuse. What you are probably referring to as overuse is the system of prioritization by the requester. Normally, there are three categories of patient transfer with various standards for each: Urgent, Priority, and routine.

    Urgent is loss of life or limb within 2 hours, Priority is patient in distress and/or needs specialized medical treatment at another facility, and routine is just that — not an emergency but mostly for convenience. These patients are transported by helicopter for various reasons, some as simple as the pilot needs training and the chopper happens to be going that way. Might as well carry a patient as fly empty.

    At a cost of anywhere from $1000.00 to $3000.00 per hour to launch, (depending on aircraft model) any revenue paying rider helps out.

    I’ve never experienced an “overused” MEDEVAC mission but once in 20+ years of flying…and that’s only because the patient was dead when I picked him up.

    Keep up the good work.

    My only question: how long ago did you get out of the biz? -rc

  24. You’re right…times may have changed. I’ve been out of the business for a few years but my colleagues are still flying (out of NC). They haven’t reported any overuse or abuse of the system. In fact, every flight hour is welcomed versus sitting on a standby basis.

    Can’t speak for everyone, but this MEDEVAC pilot would rather be flying — even if it’s for a routine blood run or organ transfer — than sitting in the ready room watching TV.

    Keep in mind, each mission is different and has its substantiating reasons; and they should be evaluated separately. I’ve never been one to second guess the requester.

    But everyone…from the ground crew to the communicators and air crew…play an important role in the safety and survivability of the patient.

    Hat’s off to all that play a role.

  25. I always enjoy your descriptions of your EMS incidents. You had me standing right behind your shoulder the whole time, enjoying the thrill of getting to help someone obviously in dire need of immediate medical care. It’s such a great feeling to know that this time, too, your part in it was as successful as you could possibly make it; and you asked for feedback for the next time. Cocky pilots, don’t ‘ya LOVE ’em! And “Good Work!” to everyone involved.

  26. First helicopter flight was almost 50 years ago, 19 year old Marine. UH34 Sikorsky picked me up in the mountains. Don’t remember much about the flight but was very glad for the ride. Took me down near the beach then out to a ship.

    Years later made many flights in old Hueys in the oil industry. Enjoyed the flights but some of the landings were “puckery”.

    Thank you for what you do and thank you for your efforts with “This is True”.

  27. I can’t begin to count how many times I assisted in Helo landings and take offs during my 23 year career with the police dept. At that time our hospital was not equipped to handle a lot of serious situations. Being right on I-10 and only 30 miles from the Mexican border across which is a town that that has no hospital, we saw a lot of serious situations. We have a helopad next to our hospital/nursing home complex, and all during my career it was neither fenced or lighted!

    When a helo was coming in we had to set up during the day to keep onlookers at a safe distance and at night we had to provide security and lighting for the helos! We would put a patrol car at each corner of the pad with our headlights lighting the pad and our overheads on to guide the pilot in. Just before the helo would set down we would kill all our lights to keep from blinding the pilot! Back in the early part of my career the medivac flights were usually done by military chopper out of Ft. Bliss and later by Lifeflite. It was always an experience to be that close to a helo landing or taking off, and it was kind of fun watching the rookies dealing with the rotor wash.

    Here, too, police usually help with the landings. But when they’re busy or otherwise not available, that’s when it can get interesting! -rc

  28. You know, helicopters don’t actually fly, they just beat the air into submission.

    And you know why there’s a propeller in the back? It keeps the pilot cool. If it stops turning, you should see her sweat! -rc

  29. Just a guess here for Sabra from AZ, who referred to the helo that landed by her ponies as a “glass dragonfly”. Maybe either a Bell 47, the M*A*S*H helicopter, or possibly a Hughes 269/TH-55 Osage.

  30. To Larry in Stephenville, TX: YES! The M*A*S*H helicopter! Minus the beds. Glass bubble and a little bit of metal. I just looked at it and had to wonder how on Earth they ever thought it would fly.

  31. I had several routine chopper rides in the Navy and civilian life. My latest ride was June 1, 2011 after I fell out of a tree. (Damage: “Severe” head injuries, no skull fracture, broken neck, broken back in seven places, shattered pelvis, compound thigh fracture, collapsed lung, and some minor injuries). Air Evac Lifeteam arrived, put me into a roomy (like a coffin!) compartment from Stevenson AL to Erlanger trauma center in Chattanooga TN. I remained conscious until after arriving at Erlanger, then slept for seven weeks.

    Twelve days after arriving at Erlanger, I was transferred to Kindred, a specialty lung hospital where I regained consciousness July 19. I was transferred to a rehab center two days later.

    I regret that I never got to meet the medical team that put me back together, but I suppose that the bills for services (most but not all paid by insurance) was sufficient consolation to them.

    If I found you in that condition, I would have called for a chopper too. But the people who do the work — especially in the field — don’t get any more money for a difficult case than a routine one, and the pay is generally dismal at that. We definitely like to hear about “what happened,” and truly enjoy meeting patients (especially the critical ones). It really is never too late to seek out a crew that helped you and let them know how things turned out — and/or to thank them. -rc

  32. Very nice little article .It is nice to see how our tax dollars and volunteers work to save lives. Nice to see what you do Randy.

    There are very few tax dollars involved when it comes to volunteer services. -rc

  33. This pretty well inspires me again.

    To explain for those who are reading this, I’m a ham radio operator, trained in basic first aid, and have done a bit of comms work for a couple of disasters in Los Angeles when I was living there. A small part of this was inspired by reruns of televisions “Emergency!”

    Over the summer, I had a bit of confrontation at our local renaissance faire, where I had helped a patient over to the medical tent. The head of the medical tent — an EMT — had given me a dressing down for not being able to present my card and helping the patient anyway. (I was flummoxed by this for a number of reasons, but did not confront — I did not wish to strike camp before faire closed.)

    Now, I see this, and I am reminded precisely why I had done work with Red Cross, RACES, etc., and obtained my first aid card — I like to help people. So on that note, it’s time for me to go farther, and I’ll be looking into some further first responder training up here in Seattle. Granted, it seems that I need to first get a job (I’m almost ready to graduate classes at a nearby college) — those courses are not cheap.

    It is shocking for people to learn that we volunteers pay (not just time, but money) to volunteer. We take classes, refreshers, seminars, and more often than not pay not just the tuition, but the mileage to get there, and sometimes hotel rooms to get some sleep on the multi-day classes. We’re definitely not in it for the money. -rc

  34. Not a helicopter story, nor even an EMT one. But in Nov 2004, I had a heart attack. At the hospital, I was still conscious and they wanted to prep me for surgery. I refused. “But you will DIE,” they insisted. “Fine,” I replied. “I’ve had a good life, no regrets, and if this is my time, so be it.” Even my wife’s sobbing tears couldn’t convince me to accept the surgery. Somewhere along the line, I lost conscious memory, but apparently a medical technician managed to talk with me and I guess I agreed to surgery. Apparently, I didn’t die.

    Come Christmas, I bought 25 teddy bears that each held a $25 gift Visa card for my employees. I had 24 employees. The last one was for the technician. Regardless how I felt about surgery, he DID get involved in saving my life, and I was still appreciative of that. He insisted that no gift was necessary. But for me it was, LITERALLY, not the gift that counted but the thought. The gift was merely a heartfelt way of expressing it.

  35. THAT brought back a lot of memories! For 3 years I was a member of “The World Famous Burn Unit” (Officially: The United States Army Institute of Surgical Research) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and for one year, I was a part of the Flight Team. We flew out to transport patients to the Unit for treatment, military and civilian. High pucker value flights included landing in a snowstorm, landing with the trucks (wheels on the landing gear) aflame, and taking a nose dive into the eye of a hurricane in the Florida Keys in an Air Force equivalent Lear Jet, and then taking off in an Air Force “Nightingale” (stretch DC-10 if I remember correctly.) Then there are the (barely) controlled crash landings in a Huey (military chopper.) And ALL of them, to the acrophobic and aviophobic (fear of heights and fear of flying) nurse in the back were crash landings!

    I have also been the “guide” bringing in a chopper to a “field” landing. No light bars, no strobes, just some idiot kid (me) in the middle of a field holding an M-16 in one hand and a flashlight in the other.

    I’ve been retired for almost 30 years now, and do not miss the flying at all! But would do it all again in a New York minute!

    Now, I live in rural Tennessee, and near me, there is no place to land closer than 3 1/2 miles away. But still the “local” life flight company solicits me to purchase an insurance plan in case I need to be medivac’d. Do not need it (due to the “insurance” the government has on me, but nice to know someone is there.

    Forgot one chopper trip with HP factor: medical necessity flight from Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD to Walter Reed in DC. Interesting to watch multiple lightning strikes on the Washington Monument when we left. And I am sure that the craft needed fumigation afterward. The fear was palpable from pilot, co-pilot, Ambulance Crew member/EMT-MAST (Department of Defense Civilian), and me. We were all scared that the weather front would catch us before we got back home. Storm damage right after we landed was pretty high in the area.

    EMT-MAST is an EMT certified to apply “Military” (later “Medical”) Anti-Shock Trousers, which are out of favor now. I was certified to use them in my earlier medic career, but never did apply them to a patient. -rc

  36. It’s been many years since I have had to call in a chopper. Watching them come in always gives me a little chill.

    Thanks for sharing Randy!!

    James is an EMT in the Colorado mountains — in an even more remote area than I’m in. -rc

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