12 July 2010

Summer Saturdays

Home from work on Saturday morning I told my wife, "It's gonna be an interesting day and probably an interesting night." A mild cold front had passed through Friday night keeping me on the ground all night long while a line of thunderstorms rolled over us. As frequently happens, the T-storms were followed by lowered visibilities caused by the fog and mist that form as temperatures and dew points come together.
I had turned down two flights during the night because of poor visibility in the area.

Saturday was gonna be a different story-
Clear skies. Temps in the mid-80's. A near-perfect Summer Saturday.

I walked in the door to start my shift Saturday night and the faces said it all...
Flight nurse and Paramedic looked tired, but admitted they hadn't born the brunt of it...
"We've had two flights, but all the other crews in the area have been out all day long. And the horrible part? Most of the flights have been for kids"...
A two-year old run over by her own Mother.
A four year old disemboweled after her grandfather lost control of the lawn tractor the two of them were riding on.
A 7-year old "near drowning" incident...
Near drowning is in quotes because EMS crews were able to use CPR to restart the victim's heart and breathing. This is a tragic situation, because young hearts are resilient and WANT to continue beating even though horrible brain damage may have already occurred depending on how long the brain has been deprived of O2.

My forecast for a "butt-kicking" night was tempered by the fact that winds after midnight would be relatively calm and I knew that even though it wasn't forecast, fog would likely be a factor again.

I was barely finished with my preflight when the telephone rang...
"Weather check for a flight from ********* to Capital City."
After I affirm that I can do the flight-
" Your patient is a 37 year old male prisoner with a perforated bowel and sepsis. He weighs 215 pounds. The guard weighs 250 pounds."
We frequently transport prisoners to get the care they need at higher-level medical facilities, and when we do we have to bring a guard along to keep an eye on them. When we arrive at the sending hospital there are generally two guards supervising the patient. While my crew starts preparing the prisoner for transport and the second guard provides security, I walk the guard that will come along on the flight to the aircraft and give him a safety briefing similar to the briefing we all get when flying a commercial airliner...
Normal and emergency operation of the doors.
Fastening/unfastening the seat belt.
Fire extinguisher locations.
Survival kit location.
No smoking, etc.
We then walk back into the hospital to assist my crew as needed.

The flight to the Capital City is a relatively long one... just under an hour. We won't be able to make it home with the fuel remaining, so I ask my dispatchers to call and arrange after-hours fuel at Capital City. They do so, then radio to tell me I may have to wait on the fueler to get to the airport as he has a considerable drive.

At Capital City I do a "cold offload"... shut the helicopter down completely before disembarking the patient, then takeoff to refuel.
I sit on the ramp at the airport for 20 minutes waiting on the guy to pump my fuel, then return to the hospital to pick up my crew. On the flight back home, which takes 80 minutes, we see a noticeable drop in flight visibility. It's almost 1 A.M. when we land back at home base. It's almost 2 A.M. when I finish my paperwork and find the viz all around us has dropped below minimums.

So my "wild day" prediction came true, but didn't extend into the night for me personally although I still logged 2:23 in my log book, with 2:05 of that being Night Cross-Country.
Winds are forecast to stay calm, so viz will remain restricted.
We all hit the hay knowing even if the telephone rings with a request we'll probably be sayin' "NO!" the rest of the shift.

And that's just how it happened.

1 comment:

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

In the world of flight, weather rules all. It's really that simple. Anyone who doesn't believe that will, sooner or later, be a dead pilot.

As my father, a WWII B-17G pilot (and instructed in B-25 Mitchells, also flew the F-80, P-51, C-154, C-119 and B-29) once told me: "There are old pilots and there are bold pilots but there are no old, bold pilots."

I never forgot that little saying.