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Life as an EMS Pilot


RkyMtnHI
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This is going really well folks, please keep posting with your input..

 

 

If you have worked, or are now working, in a position as a EMS pilot, or support team, please let us know about your experiences. We have listed some basic ground rules and questions, but you can certainly add as much information as you would like.

 

Ground rules:

 

We want to know about YOUR actual experience, not hearsay.

 

Do not slam operators, we want to know the good and the bad, but please keep it professional.

 

If you have support folks that are not on the forum, you can ask them to type up a paragraph and add it to your post, it would be great to get their input as well.

 

Suggestion:

 

You might reply in a 'quote' so you can type inbetween the questions like this:

 

"What was best about the job?"

 

your answer here

 

or, cut and paste the questions and then answer..

 

Questions:

 

What were your qualifications (hours, certificates, and prior experience) when you got this job?

What was your pay and other considerations (vacation, insurance, 401k matching, etc).

How long did you work in this area? How many hours per year did you log?

What were your primary job responsibilities?

What was best about the job?

What was worst about the job?

Where did you go afterward, and how did this job help you get into your next one?

Was this your dream job or a rung in the ladder? Was it what you expected it to be?

If it's in the past, would you go back? if you did return, what would you do differently now?

 

What advice would you impart on folks wanting to follow this career path?

 

Thanks in advance for your help and input, this information could help many thru-out their careers.

 

aloha,

 

dp

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This is going really well folks, please keep posting with your input..

 

 

If you have worked, or are now working, in a position as a EMS pilot, or support team, please let us know about your experiences. We have listed some basic ground rules and questions, but you can certainly add as much information as you would like.

 

Ground rules:

 

We want to know about YOUR actual experience, not hearsay.

 

Do not slam operators, we want to know the good and the bad, but please keep it professional.

 

If you have support folks that are not on the forum, you can ask them to type up a paragraph and add it to your post, it would be great to get their input as well.

 

Suggestion:

 

You might reply in a 'quote' so you can type inbetween the questions like this:

 

"What was best about the job?"

 

your answer here

 

or, cut and paste the questions and then answer..

 

Questions:

 

What were your qualifications (hours, certificates, and prior experience) when you got this job?

What was your pay and other considerations (vacation, insurance, 401k matching, etc).

How long did you work in this area? How many hours per year did you log?

What were your primary job responsibilities?

What was best about the job?

What was worst about the job?

Where did you go afterward, and how did this job help you get into your next one?

Was this your dream job or a rung in the ladder? Was it what you expected it to be?

If it's in the past, would you go back? if you did return, what would you do differently now?

 

What advice would you impart on folks wanting to follow this career path?

 

Thanks in advance for your help and input, this information could help many thru-out their careers.

 

aloha,

 

dp

 

 

Questions:

 

What were your qualifications (hours, certificates, and prior experience) when you got this job?

Response:

7800 hours, ATP/CFI, started flying in ‘68. I’m one of the “high school-flight school-Vietnam” Warrant Officer aviators the US Army turned out by tens of thousands.

 

My opinion, free and worth every penny- Attitude, attitude, attitude! makes or breaks an EMS pilot.

 

I’ve worked a wide variety of jobs since the Army and I agreed to separate in 1971, in and out of aviation, including 13 happy years in the Gulf of Mexico with Petroleum Helicopters Inc. At PHI, I’d just moved into the IFR program when I left, after 10 years covering an offshore Twinstar contract.

 

What was your pay and other considerations (vacation, insurance, 401k matching, etc).

 

Response:

Start pay $42,000; company matching 401K contributions up to 2%; nothing noteworthy in medical or vacation in my recollection. Pay was stagnant, the above was typical/average in the market.

Starting pay presently in the area of $57,000; match 70% of maximum 8% earnings contributed; vacation at varying rates of accrual; medical, dental.

 

How long did you work in this area? How many hours per year did you log?

 

Response:

Tenth year, average 150-200 hours flight time annually.

 

What were your primary job responsibilities?

 

Response:

Shoot, be quicker to tell a story- Typical day:

Half hour commute to work, report a half hour early to accomplish a brief from pilot going off-duty and complete pre-flight. The early report is entirely my choice, I hate- HATE!- to be late or rushed. (The company requires it as well, but won’t pay, but I do it anyhow.)

 

Sign-in, flight release, brief, maintenance record review, general situational briefing takes 10-15 minutes, checking the aircraft about the same.

 

At some point in the process, I’ll take a second to greet the medical crew.

 

Prepared for duty, I relieve the duty pilot. Instead of “I have the controls”, the duty pilot gives me the dispatch radio handset, which will be on my person while I’m the duty pilot. I telephone dispatch and update crew on duty and general weather situation: “Green weather” means I’m probably going to accept dispatch requests quickly; “Yellow” indicates delay while weather is confirmed in detail with an increased probability of declining a request; “Red” means I’m probably not accepting dispatch. There’s a multitude of other issues to consider before accepting a dispatch request- aircraft and crew capabilities, duty time, to name a few.

 

Next, crew brief. The flight crew functions as a unit, so we review a checklist of mandated discussion items and whatever else anybody wants to ensure everybody’s on board and duty ready. This, too, takes about a half hour.

 

Detailed review of maintenance records, coordinate with mechanic’s plans. Like Fred Sanford, I do a lot of coordnating.

 

Detailed review of weather and progs, trends. Personal knowledge at a premium, most of my plans for the shift are prepared at this point- If X, then Y, or no go, and updated throughout the day.

 

The above takes 3-4 hours on the first duty period of a hitch, about half that once situational awareness is in place.

 

Lunch, or if I’m on night duty, close the day’s records, forward reports. Computerized records increased paper, at least manual reports, geometrically.

Complete on-line training. Did you know that a dog’s digestive juices are twice as powerful as a humans? To be fair, that’s finally been dropped from the survival training module.

 

Various base responsibilities, I keep the hazard map and LZ data base, for instance..

Read, watch TV, browse the internet, sleep. If I’m the night duty pilot, I can “go to phone dispatch” and shut off the dispatch handset, catch a nap without listening to flights in progress.

 

Mid-afternoon is our peak call period, so everything is put on hold that can’t be stopped in progress at 1500 hours.

 

 

 

At some point, the handset “Air Life 2, Radio” demands my attention. “Radio, Air Life 2, go.” “Air Life 2, standby request, ‘X’ County, City of ‘Y’”. (Standby means the requesting agency wants us assigned to them, but not necessarily enroute. Program SOP is to launch on anything more than 10 minutes ETE, and no charge, we’ll eat the expense if not required.) Or, “Air Life 2, transfer request, Podunk Regional, City of Scufflegrit, to Big Time Medical Center, Downtown.” Groan- this means an indefinite period at one or both hospitals, duty time is a BIG issue- “Air Life 2 is good for weather, responding.”

 

Either way, I inform the medical crew, and once the crew acknowledges, I’m out the door to aircraft. Walk around (all the crew does this), general condition check, and pull shore lines, heater cords, etc.

 

Then, in the pilot’s seat, I’ll either start the checklist or turn the battery and avionics on so we can coordinate with local dispatch. On a standby, at this point the medical crew calls “Mission ready” status to dispatch and we standby. And standby. And standby, or not. Usual standby is 5-10 minutes.

 

Actual request, I complete the start checklist, call dispatch with a flight plan, and do the takeoff brief with the crew, something like “I’m going to turn the tail right 90, climb above the trees, look for (specific hazards, towers, cranes, traffic), turn left, on course...” By now, Dispatch rogers, we lift, and depart. Once established in cruise, we’ll request coordinates and read them back. Then, dispatch will forward patient and contact information, “MVA with entrapment, Unit XYZ on whatever frequency”. The med crew acknowledges, I monitor if able, and a preliminary plan is discussed amongst the crew. My input is usually the closest trauma centers and comparison ETE, and weather/operation issues.

 

ASAP, the crew establishes contact with requesting agency, updates patient info and gets an LZ brief. Overhead the LZ, we do a high recon and establish hazards, and I brief my approach plan. Sterile approach, all eyes out, once we’ve landed, I inform the crew and we brief a “hot” (rotors turning) departure path, if that’s the plan.

 

After the crew’s cleared, I usually shut down, post flight and walk the LZ. I hate finding obstacles I should have seen, but like seeing them better shut down than in flight.

 

When I see the ambulance doors open, I jump into the pilot seat, count the ground guys approaching, and assist the loading from the PIC station (I’m prohibited from actual loading- If I hurt myself at this point...). Once the patient is loaded, I strap in, start the checklist, count the ground guys leaving, and wait for “clear to start”. Start completed, flight plan filed, I’m waiting for the crew to complete preparation, and I’m watching the scene environment.

 

Once everybody calls up, I brief the departure, and once acknowledged, we leave.

The rest is just pilot stuff, except I’ll ask about medical issues, and I’ll countdown arrival ETE until the medics have talked with the receiving facility. Usually there’s a lot of intellectual discussion of patient condition and treatment. If the crew’s really busy, they’re more vocal and emotional, and I keep a closest hospital with a helipad in my route awareness and plan.

 

Land, offload, paperwork, refuel and wait for the crew at the hospital.

 

Repeat as required.

 

 

Review company correspndence

 

What was best about the job?

 

Response:

Home every day, work in the local area, and work with very positive people.

 

What was worst about the job?

 

Response:

Not much flying...

 

Was this your dream job or a rung in the ladder? Was it what you expected it to be?

Response:

This job wasn’t my goal, and it’s not at all what I expected.

 

What advice would you impart on folks wanting to follow this career path?

 

Response:

This is most definitely not an entry level position, a new pilot won’t be acquiring new skills.

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  • 3 months later...

From a flight medic's POV, it was interesting to read your above synopsis.

 

Obviously I talk with the pilots we work with everyday, but have never asked about what all is going on inside that "little head of theirs" (tongue in cheek of course.)

 

I will just throw this out ther and reiterate what was posted, attitude means the world in HEMS. It can be a high stress environment, and there is no room for the machismo, from the pilot or crew. People who can't get on board with the TEAM concept pretty quickly go back to GoM or wherever they came from.

 

The best services I have worked for are the ones where the med crew has a high level of respect and appreciation for the pilot's job, and the pilot has a high level of respect and appreciation for the med crews job. This mutual respect and appreciation is what will make that AMRM training that we hear so much about actually work.

 

Lastly, always remember, all these things we do, we do for the benefit of the patient. So many, pilot and med crew alike seem to forget this over time.

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Wtengel, thanks so much for the post, and for brining this back up.. Great comments btw.

 

Wally, thanks so much for posting your great response, i think i missed this one and am very sorry to admit that.. this is exactly what i was hoping for. It not only gives a lot of information about the job, but who YOU are, and that's one of the weaknesses of this forum, you don't really know who the posters are and sometimes might wonder where the info is coming from. We are lucky to have folks like you on here and i hope everyone else appreciates your time as much as i do.. sincerely.

 

Thanks again to both of you for your input..

 

dp

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