29 March 2012


"Your flight is a go. It's in the vicinity of ******town. Your patient is a 31 year old male, victim of a rollover accident. He's trapped beneath the vehicle. Heading of 182 degrees for 39 miles."
In my favor...
It's a clear, starlit night and we can see forever. Little towns along the way stand out like beacons in the dark.

But there ARE factors makin' my life difficult...
Our normal aircraft is bein' used elsewhere and the loaner we have is an older, less powerful machine with older radios, not the same as in our primary aircraft.
The GPS in this machine is located on the right-lower side of the panel, making it difficult to see/use, and requiring me to take my right hand off the cyclic and fly the aircraft with my left hand while programming it. It's an aggravation.

We lift and I point the nose in the general direction we need to go.
"Your ground contact is ******* and your coordinates are...."
Reaching cruise, I take the cyclic in my left hand, input the coordinates, and push "enter".

Initially all looked and felt okay. But about ten minutes into the flight I began to question:
" ******town SHOULD be right over there, about 20 degrees off the nose."
We're seein' nothin' but black beneath and around us.
I call dispatch... "Read me those coordinates again, please."
No change, so we continue.

But soon the GPS says we're close enough we should be seeing flashing lights, and we're still in the middle of nowhere.
"Dispatch, call and see how far and in what direction they are from ******town, please."
Now I'm tense. Our patient may be slowly circling the drain and here we are floundering around in the air, not sure which direction we should be headed.
"They say they are about 15 miles Northwest of ******town."

I know there's an airport at ******town. I quickly set the GPS to go there, then point my nose to arrive Northwest of where the instrument wants to take me. Soon we're seeing lots of red and white flashing lights. We get LZ and obstacle information from the scene commander, then land safely.

The first thing I do when I land at a scene is copy the landing coordinates. The GPS can only take you to the correct location if you plug in the correct numbers. Comparing the correct numbers with the initial numbers we were given, I notice one of the coordinates was supposed to be "93", but was read to our dispatchers and relayed to me as "39". Realizing early on that we were headed in the wrong direction kept a circuitous flight to the scene from being a total screw-up.

We cover miles and miles of geography.
Once in a while it helps that I've been flying this area for over 37 years and know my A.O. well.


Jess said...

I deal with coordinates when doing project surveys or plotting in a cad program. Sooner or later, I enter one wrong digit, which can change everything.

Thank goodness only money and not lives are involved with my errors. If I had to fly a helicopter at the same time, I'd probably crash.

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

If you take the cyclic in your left hand, are you not sitting in the RIGHT seat of your helo? Or are you sitting in the left seat, with your right hand on the collective?

I can never remember:

Where does the pilot sit in various helos?

Left seat or right seat?


Greybeard said...

Depends on the helo, BZ.
I'd say most today are flown from the right...
We fly the BK117 from the right seat.
The new EC130 is flown from the left.
The Bell 47 I flew as a Deputy Sheriff was flown from the left.
The Hiller I instructed in was flown from the CENTER of three seats!

But the cyclic is in your right hand continuously unless you're tuning radios or looking for an out-of-control thrill ride, and the collective/throttle is in your left.