“This time of year presents challenges like any season,” said Johnson.
Fixed-wing aircraft are equipped with anti-icing equipment that allows them to fly in icy weather, Johnson and Brian Bates, Premier Health, CareFlight’s outreach manager and flight nurse.
While safety is a priority one for helicopter crews, Bates said “it’s really about preparation and planning for the unknown event.”
Spring and summer bring issues with popup thunderstorms, and winter brings sleet, freezing rain and popup snowsqualls, said Johnson, and Bates.
“Something like a rain shower doesn’t preclude us from flying,” said Johnson. “We can generally navigate around (rain showers), whereas (large weather fronts) may ground us for a while because of a line of thunderstorms. There’s really a lot that goes into it, the decision-making process. This time of year, the temperatures play a big part of it because icing and helicopters do not mix. We don’t fly in icy conditions.”
Most of the medical helicopter runs (about two-thirds for each system) are flying patients between hospitals, Johnson and Bates said.
Bates said they’re constantly evaluating and re-evaluating weather safety situations, and if they need to land to find an alternate route or transport with the mobile unit.
“We don’t skirt weather, we don’t scud run (beat the weather) because that usually leads to a dangerous situation,” said Bates. “It doesn’t do the patient or our crews any good to put anyone in jeopardy.”
FACTS & FIGURES
CareFlight Air & Mobile
- 4 Dauphin helicopters, based at 5 locations across the region
- 5 ground Mobile Intensive Care Units (MICU), based at hospitals across the region
- A team of more than 100 people dedicated to the health and safety of those who need immediate medical care and swift transport
Air Care and Mobile Care
- In nearly 4 decades, the agency has had 30,000 accident-free flight missions and more than 100,000 patient transports by ground.
- Uses two state-of-the-art EC 145 helicopters
- Annually, more than 700 hours and nearly 60,000 miles are flown, and more than 4,800 hours and 160,000 miles are driven.
Sources: Premier Health and UC Health