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Interested in the EMS field


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I am 18 years old and have just recently decided to look into flying helicopters as a career. I've been into flying (especially helicopters) for as long as I can remember, but never really thought of turning it into a career idea. After looking at all the possible careers for helicopter pilots, EMS interests me the most.

 

I've never taken flying lessons, but I am about to start within the next couple of weeks. I'm just wondering if any of you guys have tips for me?

 

I'm extremely excited, and I honestly think this career would be perfect for me. I just am unsure of where or how to start. I really want to live in NYC within the next few years (as well as work there), but I am not sure if there are many EMS jobs open in NYC? Although that is quite irrelevant for right now since I have not even started lessons.

 

Any tips/help would be appreciated. Thanks!

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EMS is the perfect job for old helo pilots, and a crappy job for a young professional pilot- you don't fly much on most EMS jobs, and you can get rusty if the experience base isn't there.

 

I came to the field from the Gulf of Mexico when there were lots of small ships flying single-pilot there. Now, I see some pretty good sticks coming from the tour industry, especially the Grand Canyon.

 

Get the best training you can find, this isn't the time to pinch pennies.

Get your instrument rating ASAP.

Get as much night experience as you can, too- lack of nights stops a lot of working pros from going EMS.

Get 2-3000 hours of PIC time, and if you're not 'over it', look around.

Sorry, I can't help you with info on EMS in NYC.

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Just as Wally said. Get started with your training, work hard, study hard and it will come to you. EMS companies look for right now about 3000 hours total time. Make sure you get your night time! Many companies look for a minimum 150 but really want 300 hours of night.

 

The typical path is training, CFI then tours or the Gulf of Mexico. In the Gulf you won't fly hardly at all at night so it's best to be sure to have your night time knocked out by then. Tour pilots in Las Vegas do some night flying.

 

EMS is the job I wanted when I was in your shoes. I love it and wouldn't trade it for anything. We don't fly much so finding something to do when not busy will help keep you sane. On average I would say about 200 hours a year. In tours I did 5 times that.

 

Remember, Night time, Instrument rating and 3000 hours are the goals to shoot for. There is no rush, jobs will be here. Enjoy gaining experience first. EMS can be a challenge.

 

Good luck and feel free to ask a lot of questions. That is what we are here for.

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Thanks guys. I am beyond ready to begin my training, but it's extremely expensive! I knew that going in, though, and it will be worth it. I am thinking of getting a loan big enough to get me through CFI training so I can get paid to earn my hours.

 

When it comes to getting in night hours, are there lessons for that? Or do you get that once you enter a job? For example, can you go and take a flight lesson during night time or do you have to do it on your own time?

 

Another question about getting hours.. if you fly solo, how do they know how many hours you flew? Do you keep a logbook of all the flying you've done, or what? I like the idea of doing tours over Las Vegas. Sounds very appealing. That or the Grand Canyon. And about the Gulf of Mexico.. where do most jobs for that station? I would want to live in Florida most likely if I did that, but I'm not sure if that would work?

 

I probably won't have a problem keeping sane. I can occupy myself pretty well, and the EMS field has gotten me hooked since I found it. I also love the schedule. I really want a big family (as well as my girlfriend), and I want a job I can enjoy but not be gone 24/7.

 

I also have a question when it comes to schools. I'm in the Atlanta area, and I just went to the local airport near me and found a couple of helicopter training programs/schools near me. One is a Part 61 and the other is a Part 141, but the Part 61 is cheaper. I'm just wondering which would be best for me, or if I should just pick the one I like best. Should I just go to both and talk with the people there and ask questions to find out which one I like better? These two are really my only choices for right now, as I can't move out of state for a little while (maybe two years). I definitely want to enjoy my training and really have a lot of freedom. I'm just having problems getting started and choosing. I don't want to make a bad decision now and it mess me up later down the road.

 

I'd also like to add that you are like my idol on here JD (not to be creepy!). I want to go to school for meteorology and get a degree in that as well as business while training for flight. I want a degree on my belt for sure, but I'm not sure what would help the most. Any tips or ideas for that either?

 

Thanks again guys. I greatly appreciate all the information. It's nice to have a forum like this.

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1: Night training is a requirement for your Private and Commercial training.

 

2: You are required to log all hours in a log book that you intend to use towards a Cert or rating and currency. Most pilots just log all hours since you'll want to use those to get a job. For example a company may want 3000 hours total time.

 

3: Tour companies in Las Vegas fly out to the Canyon. Some then also do night flights along the strip. Some of the same companies also fly in the South Rim. Pilots live in Las Vegas or are provided housing in the South Rim.

 

For the Gulf pilots work 7 days on then 7 days off or 14 on and 14 off. Housing provided on shift. Travel from home is out of pilots pocket. Many pilots move to places like Houston, or the FL Panhandle. Some live near their base and go home every night. The bases are scattered from the FL Panhandle all the way along the Coast to Mexico.

 

4: The best thing to do when looking at a school is to ask a lot of questions. Talk to the instructors. See how well you get a long with them. Talk to the students and see what they thing of the school. Part 61 vs 141 is tough. Part 61 allows you more flexibility in training. Part 141 is much more controled and tends to have more options for financing. I did most of my training part 61. Also, take an intro ride with any school you are thinking about.

 

There are some schools that partner with a College and you can earn a degree along with your flight training. Ask the schools you are looking at if they do this. If not you'll have to figure something else out.

 

JD

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1: I figured. I just was not sure if they include it in the lessons, or if it was done on your own time.

 

2: How do they know if you lie about your hours when it comes to the log book? I mean, I don't see why anyone would ever lie about it.. but just incase, how would they know?

 

3: That's pretty cool. I wasn't sure if they would or not, but I honestly have no idea what the distance is between Las Vegas and the Canyon. Is it easy to find tour jobs throughout the US, or is it tough to find any work? I would like to fly tours over NYC since I plan to live there after a couple years of training (getting my CFI, which brings up another question: what is the difference between CFI and CFII? I figure CFII is higher, but in what ways?).

 

Any job I get I will most likely want to live close enough to the base to go home each night, unless it's completely impossible. If I worked in the Gulf I would probably try to find a job along the FL Panhandle.

 

4: I plan to make a list of questions to ask and go visit both schools this weekend. Do you have any good questions to ask them? I'm not really sure what all to ask or find out before deciding on a school. I know the biggest thing to look into is which one I feel most comfortable at, but I would also like to find out as much as possible.

 

I will most likely do most of my training through Part 61. From what I hear, it seems like it will fit me much better. I need training that will not stress me out. I really want to enjoy the learning experience rather than be stressed and end up not enjoying it at all. Only thing I do like about Part 141 is the financial help. I'm not exactly rich, but I can find a way. I'd also like to add that I am taking an intro ride within the next week or week and a half with whichever school I pick after visiting.

 

I am going to look into trying to go to college while I do my training. It would be nice to have some assitance if possible, though.

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For logging time, no one will know until you get into the cockpit for an acceptance ride, claiming 3,000 hours, and you can barely hover. It doesn't take long to tell if a pilot has the hours they claim, and if you can't show the proficiency, you won't get hired. It's a small industry, and word gets around. Logging time is done on the honor system, and if you fudge that, you're going to have a hard row to hoe.

 

There are no jobs along the Florida panhandle. There are a couple on the Alabama coast, but you'll need years of seniority to get one. The jobs are on the Louisiana coast, in hellholes like Fourchon, Boothville/Venice, Morgan City, and Houma. There are a few in Texas, but you also need seniority for those, most of the time. There are no nice places in south Louisiana, so just accept that and take what you get.

Edited by Gomer Pylot
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Personal opinion- The minimum night training in usual certificate syllabus is just enough to demonstrate that night flight is possible and legal. Get as much night time as you can with somebody who has actually worked nights. There's a reason that EMS generally has minimum night experience requirements of 200+ hours.

 

What my learned colleague, Gomer Pylot, is tactfully trying to say is that helicopters are useful because they can get places that aren't economically accessible by most other means. That also means they're usually based in places with minimal infrastructure, translated- nobody else lives there because those places are the "arm pits", if not the crotches, of the area. You probably won't want to live there, either.

Additionally, the jobs you're doing are usually 'time critical'. The customer wants 25 hours, 8 days a week from you. You will work the legal maximum of 14 hours a day, most days. Yeah, you're 'just sitting there, not really working', but it is wearing. Day in, day out, not conducive to safe commutes of any length, so you're usually going to flop in crew accommodations until you get a shot at something better. That takes time (seniority) or major political ability (knee pads).

That may sound pretty forbidding, but it has advantages, too. I do this because I LIKE TO FLY!, the more I can fly, the happier I am- bring on the 14 hour days! I also like the schedule, working hard for a while, and completely off for a while. Being distant to the work site means I can't casually be called in, maximizing my off time.

Edited by Wally
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If you haven't seen this thread yet, check it out. It's a good "day in the life" for EMS guys: http://helicopterforum.verticalreference.c...showtopic=10652

 

Some guys love it, some hate it. At 22, I went from flying 1000 hrs a year instructing, to flying about 100 hrs a year in EMS. That was fine by me! I'm at a slow base, really close to the city, so when we do fly, it's very short flights. But, the two nearest bases to us, fly 2-3 hrs per shift and have long flights. So, pick a base that has the kind of flight time you want. Personally, I like being paid to sleep. If I want to fly, I go over to my part time ENG job.

 

BTW, the minimums for most programs are 2000 hrs. Some require, or *like* 3000, but CAMTS accreditation says 2000 w/ 500 turbine and 100 night. Some states require 3000 (I think Alabama is one of them in addition to Tennesee.) The FAA might make a minimum requirement at some point, but I doubt it will be 3000 or two pilot crews. If you think there's a major HEMS pilot shortage now, wait untill that happens.

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That's my only problem with the Gulf idea. I don't really want to end up working somewhere I hate living. I know it's hard to find a job in the industry, so it's good to take what you can get. But I also want to be happy with where I live, especially if it's going to be a few years of my life.

 

Also, to the 14 hour work days.. is that for EMS or the Gulf job?

 

If you haven't seen this thread yet, check it out. It's a good "day in the life" for EMS guys: http://helicopterforum.verticalreference.c...showtopic=10652

 

Some guys love it, some hate it. At 22, I went from flying 1000 hrs a year instructing, to flying about 100 hrs a year in EMS. That was fine by me! I'm at a slow base, really close to the city, so when we do fly, it's very short flights. But, the two nearest bases to us, fly 2-3 hrs per shift and have long flights. So, pick a base that has the kind of flight time you want. Personally, I like being paid to sleep. If I want to fly, I go over to my part time ENG job.

 

BTW, the minimums for most programs are 2000 hrs. Some require, or *like* 3000, but CAMTS accreditation says 2000 w/ 500 turbine and 100 night. Some states require 3000 (I think Alabama is one of them in addition to Tennesee.) The FAA might make a minimum requirement at some point, but I doubt it will be 3000 or two pilot crews. If you think there's a major HEMS pilot shortage now, wait untill that happens.

 

Yeah that was the first thread I went through when I found the forum. Made me even more interested!

 

My plan is to get my instructors license so that I can get paid to fly while I'm going through college. Is that what you did? Also what city do you work in? I want to work close to a decent sized city (such as NYC, Atlanta, Chicago etc) but I am unsure of how difficult it is to find work for EMS in those regions. I'm just afraid it will be difficult for me to find a job in a place I wanna live.

 

Thanks for the information on hours.

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Eaw,

 

For the first few years of your career, you need to be prepared to go where the work is. I would expect to move quite a few times actually until you reach that EMS job. They typically require 2000-3000 hours with a certain number of night and cross country hours. Remember, you may have 3000 hours, but not enough night hours to qualify for certain positions. A good way to gain night hours during training is do your instrument flying at night.

 

First - You will probably have to move to a location near the flight school you want to attend. Remember flight schools are risky business, when selecting one make sure it is reputable and has a long history. Flight schools have been known to flop overnight taking students loan money with them.

 

Second - When you become a flight instructor, the school you trained at might not have work for you, this means you will have to find a job else ware, which could be on the other side of the country.

 

Third - You get your 1500 hours as a flight instructor, now you can get an entry level job, usually tours of Alaska or the grand canyon, or flying to rigs in the gulf of Mexico.

 

Fourth - Now you finally have a bunch of hours and qualify for whatever job you want, you can get that job and hopefully stay there, buy a home if that is what you want.

 

So as you can see you can expect to move at least three to four times on your path to becoming an EMS pilot, or really any desirable job as a helicopter pilot. It is worth noting that a lot of people who work in the gulf don't live near it, they take a commercial flight in every week or 2 weeks, whatever their schedule.

 

Since I don't think anyone explained the difference between CFI and CFII, here it is. CFI stands for certified flight instructor. CFII stands for certified flight instructor - instrument. A CFI can only teach people to fly by reference to what you can see out the window. A CFII may teach people to fly by reference to the instruments without being able to see out the window.

 

The concept of instrument flying was hard for me to grasp until I got to that point in my training. Imagine driving your car down the road on a bright sunny day. This is comparable to regular flying. Now imagine you spray painted all the windows in your car black and you can't see anything outside, that is essentially instrument flying. You have a number of instruments in the cockpit that tell you how the aircraft is flying. Remember, you could be diving strait toward the ground, but if you can't see the ground or the sky, or anything outside, how would you know you were headed for the ground? There are other instruments and resources used that help you navigate from where you take off, to where you want to go. For example these include VOR, GPS, and air traffic control.

 

Feel free to PM with more questions if you like.

Edited by slick1537
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Normal EMS shifts are 'only' 12 hours, but you have to be prepared for working 14 with no advance notice, maybe a little more. When the call comes just before the end of your scheduled shift and your relief hasn't shown up, you go and get back when you can. Flying helicopters means you will never, ever have a short, set schedule. Not in EMS, not in anything. If you can't handle long hours in poor conditions with poor pay, think about another career.

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Normal EMS shifts are 'only' 12 hours, but you have to be prepared for working 14 with no advance notice, maybe a little more. When the call comes just before the end of your scheduled shift and your relief hasn't shown up, you go and get back when you can. Flying helicopters means you will never, ever have a short, set schedule. Not in EMS, not in anything. If you can't handle long hours in poor conditions with poor pay, think about another career.

 

That's understandable. If you get a call 30 minutes before your shift is up, you can't expect to be back by the time you're supposed to get off. I would easily expect that. I don't want a short schedule or a set one. I'd actually prefer longer ones.

 

I can definitely handle anything, but isn't the pay for most helicopter jobs pretty decent? Especially EMS..

 

Overall it's worth it for me to do what I want, so that's what I plan to do. Regardless of how difficult.

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Wow this thread has taken off since my last post! Pun intended....insert laughter.

 

Helistar,

 

Great to meet you the other day. I didn't think of it at the time but was hoping you would find VerticalReference.com. I wish when I was training I had this resource and network. Thank you for the kind words as well. I do enjoy helping others reach their goals so stick to it! Also take a look at

The Ninety-nines

 

Eaw913,

 

A lot of great advice here! The first few years you will need to be prepared to move to where the jobs are. Then as you get more time under your belt you will be able to get into EMS. Then you may also need to start not at a base of your first preference. Those bases tend to have smaller turn over. With a little time you can then transfer to a base where you want to live and you'll be set.

 

There are EMS jobs in Chicago, NY and other larger cities. For now I would focus on training, networking and setting yourself up for a CFI position hopefuly at the school you train at(easier that way).

 

The pay in this industry isn't awesome but it isn't to bad. I do feel it should be a little higher. Do what you can to keep your bills down and minimize your debt any way you can. CFI's make the least. I haven't been an active CFI for a while but it was around $35,000-40,000/yr. Tours in Vegas bring in about $50,000-60,000/yr including tips. EMS is starting around $55,000-60,000/yr. Hope this gives you an idea of what to expect.

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More specific on salaries-

 

Helicopter Pilot Salary Database

 

Hopefully, that'll 'ball park' whether our compensation is "decent".

 

In EMS, it's not just the last minute requests that extend your duty day. The everyday stuff takes a while, too. The medical side influences how long anything takes. Sometimes they stuff the patient in before I'm done with the paperwork; and I have spent 5 hours at an LZ and/or helipad waiting for a patient. Two hours isn't uncommon, but greatly exceeds the SOP guidelines.

 

My experience is that 14 hour days, being the legal max for normal 135 operations, is the rule. EMS has 12 hour schedules because we're 24/7, easier to schedule around two 12 hour shifts. AT one time, the 14 hour interpretation was very flexible. I've had 16+ hour days.

 

I think you're overly negative about the Gulf of Mexico operations. I did that for 13 years and I'd probably still be there if my domestic situation were different. Yeah, you'll float from base to base. The bases are in places where I wouldn't live, and some are/were freakin' terrible. But, I signed in, did my job signed out, and went completely and absolutely HOME. It was an 8-14 hour trip for about half my GoM time, and that ate my break time. But, I lived where I wanted. When I'd get the call to show, I was a long ways away... That cup's half full or half empty. I'll take half-full over none at all, any day.

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JDhelicopter,

I joined the 99's a couple months ago and we had a poker run today and will have another big air derby next month that's open to anyone interested in attending or entering... it's a handicap event and you can learn more at Rio Colorado River 99's... Could you tell me the name of the older guy that was with you... I felt bad because I sent an email to careflight raving about how nice you guys were to take the time to answer a few questions I had while the flight nurses were still in the emergency room but since the other guy didn't have on a flight suit with a name badge I referred to him as "an older gentleman"...

 

 

 

 

Wow this thread has taken off since my last post! Pun intended....insert laughter.

 

Helistar,

 

Great to meet you the other day. I didn't think of it at the time but was hoping you would find VerticalReference.com. I wish when I was training I had this resource and network. Thank you for the kind words as well. I do enjoy helping others reach their goals so stick to it! Also take a look at

The Ninety-nines

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JDhelicopter,

I joined the 99's a couple months ago and we had a poker run today and will have another big air derby next month that's open to anyone interested in attending or entering... it's a handicap event and you can learn more at Rio Colorado River 99's... Could you tell me the name of the older guy that was with you... I felt bad because I sent an email to careflight raving about how nice you guys were to take the time to answer a few questions I had while the flight nurses were still in the emergency room but since the other guy didn't have on a flight suit with a name badge I referred to him as "an older gentleman"...

 

No problem. I'll send you a message.

 

JD

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I will most likely do most of my training through Part 61. From what I hear, it seems like it will fit me much better. I need training that will not stress me out. I really want to enjoy the learning experience rather than be stressed and end up not enjoying it at all. Only thing I do like about Part 141 is the financial help. I'm not exactly rich, but I can find a way. I'd also like to add that I am taking an intro ride within the next week or week and a half with whichever school I pick after visiting.

 

I am going to look into trying to go to college while I do my training. It would be nice to have some assitance if possible, though.

 

Two rules to live by. Don't go to church without a Bible in your hand, and dont start training until you own a current FAR/AIM...the Bible of aviation. Open it up and start reading. It costs about $10 bucks and will save you a ton, plus it answers most every question about flying that you might have.

 

Good luck on your venture,

 

Goldy

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry for not replying in a while guys. Been busy and haven't had enough time to sit down and catch up on all these replies.

 

Eaw913,

 

A lot of great advice here! The first few years you will need to be prepared to move to where the jobs are. Then as you get more time under your belt you will be able to get into EMS. Then you may also need to start not at a base of your first preference. Those bases tend to have smaller turn over. With a little time you can then transfer to a base where you want to live and you'll be set.

 

There are EMS jobs in Chicago, NY and other larger cities. For now I would focus on training, networking and setting yourself up for a CFI position hopefuly at the school you train at(easier that way).

 

The pay in this industry isn't awesome but it isn't to bad. I do feel it should be a little higher. Do what you can to keep your bills down and minimize your debt any way you can. CFI's make the least. I haven't been an active CFI for a while but it was around $35,000-40,000/yr. Tours in Vegas bring in about $50,000-60,000/yr including tips. EMS is starting around $55,000-60,000/yr. Hope this gives you an idea of what to expect.

 

This forum is a great source of information. It is hard to find a forum with as much participation as this one gets!

 

I expect to have to move around to find a job at first, but I am hoping to get lucky and maybe get a job with the school I plan to train at (as you said, this is easier of possible). How do you get deeper into this industry, as far as networking? Any tips besides just talking to people?

 

How hard is it to find a CFI/CFII job right now? Or at least what would you project it will be like within the next year or two? That is most likely when I will be getting into looking for a job, so I'm just curious. I know the field isn't exactly positive, but I'm not going to let fear of not finding a job keep me from my dream.

 

How does transferring to another base work? Do you just ask to move to another location/city once you get more experience?

 

I know the EMS field doesn't pay extremely well, but I don't really mind. I think the pay is at least decent, especially if it means doing something I love each day.

 

Thanks for the information JD.

 

 

More specific on salaries-

 

Helicopter Pilot Salary Database

 

Hopefully, that'll 'ball park' whether our compensation is "decent".

 

In EMS, it's not just the last minute requests that extend your duty day. The everyday stuff takes a while, too. The medical side influences how long anything takes. Sometimes they stuff the patient in before I'm done with the paperwork; and I have spent 5 hours at an LZ and/or helipad waiting for a patient. Two hours isn't uncommon, but greatly exceeds the SOP guidelines.

 

My experience is that 14 hour days, being the legal max for normal 135 operations, is the rule. EMS has 12 hour schedules because we're 24/7, easier to schedule around two 12 hour shifts. AT one time, the 14 hour interpretation was very flexible. I've had 16+ hour days.

 

I think you're overly negative about the Gulf of Mexico operations. I did that for 13 years and I'd probably still be there if my domestic situation were different. Yeah, you'll float from base to base. The bases are in places where I wouldn't live, and some are/were freakin' terrible. But, I signed in, did my job signed out, and went completely and absolutely HOME. It was an 8-14 hour trip for about half my GoM time, and that ate my break time. But, I lived where I wanted. When I'd get the call to show, I was a long ways away... That cup's half full or half empty. I'll take half-full over none at all, any day.

 

Most of the things that extend your day at least make sense. I wouldn't really imagine everything would go as planned in a field like this.

 

Well, I am not so much negative about it. I would do it with a grin if it meant getting to where I need to be. At least I'd be flying. My biggest thing against it is not the locations, but the flying over water. I have a fear of being stranded in open water and if I went down I have no idea how I'd react! :lol: (hopefully would never happen, but just saying!)

 

I agree to the half-full as well.

 

 

Two rules to live by. Don't go to church without a Bible in your hand, and dont start training until you own a current FAR/AIM...the Bible of aviation. Open it up and start reading. It costs about $10 bucks and will save you a ton, plus it answers most every question about flying that you might have.

 

Good luck on your venture,

 

Goldy

 

I plan to look for this at the bookstore soon. I have chosen a flight school I want to attend, and they are a pay-as-you-go (Part 141), so I'm excited. Going to take my intro flight in a week or two. I'll keep you guys updated.

 

Thanks to everyone for all the information.

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