Two Together: A Helicopter Success Story - Helicopter Association ...

Two Together: A Helicopter Success Story - Helicopter Association ...

Two Together: A Helicopter Success Story

by Martin J. Pociask

photos courtesy of West Michigan Air Care

Air Care staff believe in teamwork, and safety is their first priority.

A 365SJ N model, which will soon be replaced and the primary

365WM response helicopter sit on the Bronson Helipad.

"Scene location" landings can include grassy fields, highways,

country roads, and people's back yards.

John Eichel, one of two maintenance crewmembers, works on

a helicopter at the Bronson hangar.

On March 21st, Helicopter Association International (HAI) member,

West Michigan Air Care, Air Medical Transport, located and based in

Kalamazoo, Michigan, celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Set in motion

by the merger of Borgess Inflight Medical Service and Bronson

CareFlite Inc., Air Care became the first air medical consortium in the

United States to be established through the consolidation of two active

and existing programs.

Borgess Medical Center is affiliated with the Sisters of St. Joseph. It

is a 426-bed institution specializing in cardiac, neurosurgery, and trauma.

Bronson Methodist is an independent 438-bed hospital, with specialty

areas in trauma (ACS level I), burns, NICU (level III), pediatric intensive

care unit (PICU, designated Children's Hospital), cardiac, and hyper

baric medicine.

Covering a large area that includes Southwest Michigan and

Northern Indiana, with occasional flights to more distant locations such

as Detroit, Chicago, Fort Wayne, and South Bend, Air Care serves a population

of more than a million in an area that is largely rural farmland.

Even though Air Care operates out of Kalamazoo, ninety-six percent of

the patients transported live outside of Kalamazoo County. The company

performs life saving missions to regional facilities and emergency

agencies, operating within a 75-mile primary and 100-mile secondary

radius. Traveling at an average speed of 175 miles per hour, their fully

equipped helicopters can be airborne and on the way within minutes of

receiving a request for service. Air Care maintains a communication center

dedicated to the mission of expedient and safe patient transport.

Air Care routinely provides air medical transport into and out of

"scene locations," which simply put can include, highways, country roads,

fields, and people's back yards. Air Care also transports critical patients

from smaller area hospitals to larger more specialized hospitals, landing

at airports, helipads, and rooftops. Occasionally they also assist in

searching for missing or injured persons. They have even responded to a

request to help locate a missing airplane, which had been lost for several

days. In that event, Air Care located the site, provided the rescue team

with the coordinates, and transported the injured pilot to a trauma center

for treatment.

West Michigan Air Care employs a staff of 29, including five pilots,

12 medical crewmembers, six communications specialists, two maintenance

personnel, three administrative staff, and a Program Director.

The company has two AS365 N2 Dauphin Eurocopter helicopters, main-

20 Summer 2003

taining one in service and utilizing the other as backup.

Air Care has just purchased a second N2, to replace the

current designated backup helicopter. HAI member Air

Methods is presently configuring the new N2 Dauphin

helicopter with a new medical interior. One of the new

interior features include a unique center mounted litter

system. Air Care's two-man maintenance staff totals over

45 years of experience in helicopter maintenance. Both

A&P maintenance technicians hold certification awards

from American Eurocopter for extended years of

Dauphin service.

Air Care is proud of their safety record and has always

seen safety as a number one priority. To date the company

is 100 percent accident and incident-free. Flight

crewmembers conform to the highest standards. The

company strongly supports and encourages continued

education for all its employees. All members of the medical

staff are listed as Advanced Cardiac Life Support

(ACLS) instructors and crewmembers are also listed as

Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Neonatal

Resuscitation (NRP) and Prehospital Trauma Life

Support (PHTLS) instructors. Three of the staff are graduates

of the Medical Transport Leadership Institute

(MTLI), and an additional three are about to graduate

MTLI. Pilots attend flight safety programs on a regular

basis. Four out of the five pilots are Air Transport Pilot

(ATP) rated; the fifth pilot is in the process of obtaining

the ATP rating. Air Care pilots average over 3,000 hours

of helicopter flight experience. Air Care continues to

obtain recertification every three years and adheres to

strict Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport

System (CAMTS) standards, as well as on-site survey credentialing.

In 1995, West Michigan Air Care became one of the

first 25 (out of 240) programs in the nation to obtain

CAMTS certification, and they hold the honor of being

the first merged program in the United States to receive

certification. In May of 2002, West Michigan Air Care

became one of only five facilities in the state to receive

the prestigious Michigan Voluntary Protection Programs

(MVPP) Star award for workplace safety and health

excellence, which was presented by then Lt. Governor

Dick Posthumus at a reception at the Kalamazoo Air


The company participates in numerous special programs

such as providing Landing Zone classes for all

EMS and Emergency response personnel in their region.

The classes are unique in that they include a very thorough

training on safety in and around the helicopter.

Each participant sits in the pilot's seat to help develop a

better understanding of how limited the pilot's vision

actually is when performing a landing at the scene of an

emergency. Some class participants actually get to fly in a

helicopter to see first-hand what it is like to perform a rescue

by conducting a simulated emergency scene landing.

Air Care also sponsors Students Against Drunk

Driving (SADD) demonstrations in cooperation with the

local high school emergency response personnel. These

demonstrations are performed at several high schools

each year prior to their prom, and are narrated by Air

Care staff. The students watch staged performances of fellow

students involved in motor vehicle accidents due to

drunk driving, as they are being rescued and transported

by Air Care's helicopter to a trauma center. The demonstrations

are very effective because the victims involved in

the dramatic accident are often classmates and friends.

The message has a personal impact. Additionally, West

Michigan Air Care contributes to safety by mailing

AirWaves, a quarterly newsletter to all medical and rescue

personnel in the region.

Air Care is an excellent full service critical care transport

system, which serves as a model for transporting critically

ill or injured patients by helicopter, providing quick,

efficient service 24-hours a day, 365-days a year.

HAI congratulates West Michigan Air Care for their

outstanding service to a grateful public and for their commitment

to excellence. We are proud of our many members,

who like Air Care, routinely perform life saving helicopter

missions, often at great peril to themselves. Happy

anniversary West Michigan Air Care!

Martin J. Pociask is director of communications for HAI.

Summer 2003


The 43



“SAluTe To excellence”AwArdS

cAll for nominATionS

for 43 years, the Helicopter Association International's (HAI) "Salute to

Excellence" awards have recognized outstanding achievements in the civil helicopter

industry. HAI's thirteen "Salute to Excellence" awards cover a range of

industry achievements. By acknowledging the exceptional merit of an individual or

organization, HAI's "Salute to Excellence" awards encourage the continued attainment

of the highest standards of professionalism in the civil helicopter industry.

The deadline for nominations is November 20, 2003. However, HAI encourages

members to submit nominations as soon as possible.

individuals or organizations may be nominated in one or more of the categories

listed below: Details and nomination forms are available online at

AviATion mAinTenAnce TechniciAn AwArd

AviATion repAir SpeciAliST AwArd

igor SikorSky AwArd for humAniTAriAn Service

The Joe mAShmAn SAfeTy AwArd

ouTSTAnding cerTified flighT inSTrucTor AwArd

AguSTA communiTy Service AwArd

eurocopTer golden hour AwArd

excellence in communicATionS AwArd

helicopTer mAinTenAnce AwArd

md helicopTerS lAw enforcemenT AwArd

lAwrence d. Bell memoriAl AwArd

roBerT e. TrimBle memoriAl AwArd

piloT of The yeAr AwArd

Helicopter Association International 1635 Prince Street Alexandria Virginia 22314

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