Sunday, April 27, 2014

Do You Want To Be An EMS Helicopter Pilot? Here Is How You Do It....

In my travels, I frequently meet young people who are interested in becoming EMS helicopter pilots. While many of us flying HEMS today received our training and built our experience in the military, in the future that will not be the path for many.

Hello, how are you doing? been a while since we chatted. A friend of mine recently had a friend of his contact me wanting information about becoming a Rotary Wing aviator via the civilian route. He is former Navy and plans on using the GI bill for flight training. You are in a much better position to advise him as to the job market etc. Would you mind if I gave him your email and let him contact you?

In the Army, flying a helicopter is a third-tier duty. First you are a soldier, then an officer, and when these responsibilities are complete, then -maybe -you fly. Indeed, flying is but a small part of a military pilot's responsibilities, and not everyone is interested in the additional duties. Whereas the military used to be a good way to a great retirement and lifetime healthcare, those days are over - military members are faced with cutbacks at every turn.

I had the pleasure recently of meeting a fine example of the future of helicopter aviation, HEMS in particular. Zack Taylor is a line-pilot flying AStar helicopters all over Georgia and Florida, he is also the owner of a helicopter-business in Clearwater, Florida, and between his two obligations he is a busy young man. The business Zack owns does tours, and for-hire utility work, but his main focus is on flight training. And he does it well.

Zack Taylor

Here is a biographical excerpt from his company website...
Zack Taylor has been a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI, CFII) in helicopters since 2008. Zack is also a Designated Pilot Examiner with the Tampa FSDO and provides in-house check rides for our helicopter students. When Zack is not at the flight school, he is usually flying Eurocopters for AirLife in Florida and Georgia. Prior to flying EMS Zack flew Bell Helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico to the oil platforms and also has experience flying tours as well as years of flight instruction experience in the Tampa Bay area. His turbine helicopter and “real world” experience along with his teaching background make him a well-rounded instructor.

Click here to visit Zack Taylor's company, Tampa Bay Aviation...

The fact that Zack is a designated pilot examiner is no small detail. This means he can both train and certify pilots to earn a living flying. Of course he has a full staff of instructors, and 12 aircraft (both fixed and rotor) under his control - but it is his connections that are key.

SideBar: Zack has almost completed the requirements to operate as a CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 141 school. This would allow GI Bill recipients to use their benefit for flight training. Stay tuned... From our time together on the HEMS line, I have picked up that Zack is going to do well for himself - but more importantly it occurred to me recently that he is in a favored position to help lots of other people who want to fly helicopters do well for themselves too.

Michelle O'Keefe, Director of Operations

Say you want to become an EMS helicopter pilot without spending six or a dozen years in the military. You now have a clear path with connections from start to finish. At Tampa Bay Aviation you can progress from your first-ever helicopter flight to a commercial-flight-instructor qualification with 200 hours of experience. As an instructor you teach the next wannabe, (aviation is a pyramid scheme) and add time to your logbook on his or her dime. You won't make much money instructing, and will probably sleep in a crash-pad and eat Ramen Noodles, (like many airline pilots flying the line today) but you will quickly progress towards an experience level that will allow you to earn a real paycheck.

Instructor Mr. Roland Collins

A good and logical next step for an aspiring HEMS pilot would be to fly tours for one of the two tour companies owned by the largest air-medical helicopter company in the world. Air Methods Corporation recently bought Sundance Helicopters in Las Vegas and Blue Hawaiian Helicopters in Hawaii, in part to create a pipeline for EMS pilots who can finish building their flight experience by flying tours. Tour pilots fly long hours each day, and build time more quickly than perhaps any other sector of the helicopter business.

Instructor Ken Djoenne

The one piece missing from Air Method's recent vertical-integration move is the initial leap from earthling to aviator. But Zack Taylor can do this - and he works for Air Methods...In discussion Zack told me about how he bought the company he and his wife own today. He was an employee, and then the prior owner offered a deal Zack couldn't refuse. He jumped in and hit the ground running, and has grown his business since beginning. In fact he is so busy that he is trying to work out a way to serve two masters at once - here's hoping he succeeds.

Tampa Bay Aviation by the numbers...

Two hundred hours and an instructor qualification will run you around $65,000 - or around $60,000 if you pay up front for the entire qualification. This sounds like a lot - but if you dig into what it costs to operate a helicopter it will make more sense. The cost is a barrier to entry into the profession, and is one reason why a new EMS pilot earns about 4 times what a new airline pilot does... Student loan programs are available.

Zack owns his own simulator. This helps control his costs and yours. The sim is $140.00 per hour, the aircraft is 290.00 per hour. These prices include the instructor. The simulator allows a student to experience things not possible (due to risk) in an aircraft. It is good stuff.There are many different ways to become a HEMS pilot, Zack Taylor and Tampa Bay Aviation have helped to create clear path to success...
safe flights, and I hope to see you on the line...

Friday, April 25, 2014

How Did You Get Your Job In HEMS?

I frequently meet people who want to join our ranks, and ask how. While I have my own ideas, every situation is different. Would you take a moment and tell your job-getting story in the comment section? You might help a friend, or make a new one...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

FAA Rule Change For Hems Delayed For One Year...

The FAA has delayed for a year the implementation of much of its revision of rules governing helicopter operations to allow operators, and itself, time to adopt the many changes. The final rule was published Feb. 21 and was to take effect on Tuesday but it was apparently too soon for all involved. "Since the publication of the rule, it has become evident that this effective date does not allow certificate holders sufficient time to complete all the necessary steps to implement the new rule," the postponement rule says. However, a little further down, the FAA admits it isn't ready either. 
"In addition, the FAA has determined that the April 22, 2014 effective date does not provide sufficient time for the FAA or the regulated community to implement the other operational rules which are currently scheduled to take effect on that date," the new rule says.  Some of the rules were already delayed and they won't be delayed any further. The FAA says it will have the time to get ready for them so the operators will be expected to, also. Most of those cover the most expensive compliance measures, including the installation of avionics, emergency equipment and the creation of operations control centers, all of which will have to be in place between over the next four years.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Different View on Flying Stroke and STEMI Patients

click here for a report on flying stroke and STEMI patients

There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Perhaps it is time for some pushback from FARE, the Foundation for Aeromedical Research. One thing ignored by this type of report is the use of helicopter transport prophylactically, or "just in case."  This is the rationale given for a significant percentage of healthcare services, like CTs and diagnostic tests.  If you argued that the available helicopter "probably" isn't needed and that the patient will "probably" be okay without it, I would say - if it was my loved one - lets fly. The report also ignores the fact that the vast majority of ground ambulances are not staffed with a critical care nurse - and occasionally they are vital.

The answer to safety in aviation is not ceasing flight operations, any more than medical malpractice means we should do away with doctors...

safe flights (are the norm)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Catching a hidden error, before it counts.

Sitting in a recliner at 3:00 am recently, listening to radio traffic from several helicopters on transports, I heard one fellow call-off from his base, obtain coordinates for a scene, and then, after arriving at his destination, call to say no one was there.

He asked the communications specialist to check on the coordinates for accuracy and was told to stand-by. After a few seconds of silence, he came back on the radio and said, "disregard, we have the correct numbers now and are proceeding to the scene - we are about 3 minutes out." He had incorrectly entered the numbers that his crew copied and read to him.

I have done the same thing. You get in a hurry entering data, and you punch the wrong button or roll the wrong number. This type of mistake led to the Russians shooting down a KAL jet. Fatigue contributes to these types of errors.

To read about the KAL shoot-down, click here.

Because we fly HEMS, we frequently check our info and dart out the door.

Occasionally we head to the wrong place. Once a pilot arrived at  Ridgeland (SC), when he was supposed to be going to Richland. Ridgeland is a town near Beaufort,  and Richland is a hospital in Columbia. I was given the heading and distance to Estill recently, when I was supposed to be going to Edisto - the similar sounding name confused my comspec - and me. The paramedic caught the mistake by looking out the window.

Spoken communication is an imperfect process.

Not long ago I was pushing toward the end of a 16 hour day, and although I said I felt fine subjectively, the truth is I was fatigued.

Objectively, my performance was degraded. Fatigue has both subjective and objective components. How we feel versus how we  perform.

I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. (Get-home-itis) As I loaded my destination into my GPS I entered a couple of characters, the box finished filling the field, I saw the name of my destination-town in the display and pressed direct-to.

Unfortunately, I had selected the wrong airport in that town (there are two). When I got there, I spent a few seconds with a lack of situational-awareness as I tried to make the pieces fit together amidst confusion, discomfort, and fatigue...

I made my error at the beginning of my flight, and it didn't show up till near the end. Just like that KAL jet. I had all the time in the world to discover it.

If one person is doing it, other people are doing it too.So what can we do about this early-mistake problem?

How about, after darting out to the aircraft, and once established in cruise flight, we do a "DART" check.

Destination - lets all agree that where we think we are going is where we are supposed to be going. Check the heading and distance in the GPS against what was originally transmitted and also against what we are all familiar with - medics who work the ground before flying are a great resource regarding what is where. Restate the name of the destination, be it a city/town or a hospital in a city/town.

Altitude - is the altitude we are at appropriate for the patient, terrain, weather, and winds aloft? And what about that highest-obstacle we checked before leaving? When a helicopter lost it's engine due to ice ingestion while cruising at 500 feet above the ground, it had about 10 seconds until touchdown. The recent tour helicopter ditching in NYC occurred in a similarly short period of time. Altitude equals time to think, talk, recover rotor rpm, and make it to a suitable landing spot.
And what about the bird threat? According to research, 90% of all bird strikes happen below three thousand feet AGL. Birds like marshes, lakes, rivers, game preserves, and trash dumps. If we are going to cross one of these areas, are we doing everything we can to avoid birds?

Route - Once things settle down enroute, lets take another look at the map and make sure that the route of flight isn't going to penetrate any special-use airspace or airport traffic area we didn't think about. This is also a good time to talk about any nuke plants in the area. We may be questioned if we fly near one.

Time - Is the time required, now that we are in the wind, still going to work with the fuel on board? Do we still have enough drugs and O2?

Most of us already do some sort of level-off or cruise-check, Adding these other checks to the routine, using this mnemonic as part of your level-off or cruise check may prevent disappointment or disaster.

We hope you enjoy safe flights.


A Long..... Slow..... Salute to Billy Wynne . The Lone Survivor...

Do you remember the crash of a helo related to ice ingestion. One guy lived. He needs help now, and is going to need help in the future. He is one of us, and any one of us could be him. I think he should get thousands of messages of support from us, people who fly HEMS. And some money wouldn't hurt either.

A huge hug to "The Chive" for putting together a rescue mission for Billy's finances. I am now a "Chiver."  You guys rock.

If you want to know what gets said after the motor quits...Read Billy's story by clicking here

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Post Crash Review... LifeFlight 6 Down January 10, 2003...

The full NTSB report is available by clicking here....
Note: This was not an Air Methods event. The poster of the video on youtube made an error, probably because the Air Methods pilot tried to warn the accident pilot about the weather. At least you tried Nightstalker

Healthnet AeroMedical Services Base 7 / Kentucky 9 Arrival at Public Relations Event (video)

Thanks to Laura Pfeifer, communication specialist extraordinaire,  for sending this to us....

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

EMS Helicopter Crashes in New Mexico UPDATE 4/17/14

(4/17/14) As often happens with original information concerning an event like this, the speculation that the aircraft's engine may have been at idle during takeoff appears to be unfounded. One noteworthy comment from the pilot's statement to the NTSB  is... "The pilot added that the pedals were jammed or locked, in the neutral position."

Pedals can become jammed for various reasons. One way to make the pedals hard to move (but not impossible) is to forget to deactivate the hydraulic accumulator test switch. If this push-button switch is inadvertently left in the depressed position (after checking that we can move the cyclic using the stored pressure in the accumulators - as would be required in the event of loss of  the aircraft's single hydraulic system), the pedals are hard to move as the tail rotor load compensator is deactivated during this test.

Until the NTSB issues their final report, all forms of speculation are just that.

To see the initial NTSB report, click here...

This is the second Astar crash in a short period of time that involved a counterclockwise rotation just after liftoff... the other crash was a news helicopter in Seattle, Washington. The report is available by clicking here.

Click here for Story

Click here for video of removal from roof top pad.

Comments on a helicopter forum indicate that the aircraft's engine and rotor may have been at idle rpm during the takeoff attempt (unconfirmed). If so, this won't be the first or last time. We get in a hurry doing multiple takeoffs and landings, and skip a checklist item, and there you have it. One thing that works - in addition to using a checklist and checking the position of controls - is a slow takeoff to a hover and a deliberate hover check before applying power to depart. That gives any problems a chance to manifest before leaving the safety of the pad. I imagine this pilot had an excellent safety record right up to the minute this happened - and this could be any of us...

I also advocate using call and response confirmation checks - using crewmembers for the callouts. I know this is taboo for many HEMS pilots (and crews) but we have done it in Charleston and Savannah for years upon years, and it catches errors. I have gotten myself in a hurry before and started to depart - and had a medic ask me if I wanted to do the before takeoff checklist....

As "Lucky" wrote...

This crew was fortunate to walk away.  There isn't one person who posts on this forum who hasn't made a mistake.  Little ones are easy to fix.  Big ones like these, not so much.  This is a perfect example of why we ALL need to remain ever vigilant while performing our duties.  We all have our checklists.  Make sure you use them!  Everytime!  Be safe out there friends!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why Do This...

I understand Orson Welles ( of  "War of the Worlds" radio-drama fame) once said that people write for three reasons.

1. Ego. A need to feel important.
2. Revenge - they have an axe to grind.
3. For posterity. To live on after death.

So why me? Ego is in there; sure. I am over the revenge urge. Anyone who has ever slighted me may have had a reason to do so,  and did me a favor in the long run.

(Failure is only failure if we stop trying. As long as you are trying failure is learning what doesn't work.)

Mostly though, I write about HEMS to try and leave it a little bit better than I found it - like a good pilot who tries to leave the base and the aircraft a little bit better than he or she found it.

To be honest, there is another reason I write, and stand in front of rooms full of people to talk about what we do.


A Block of Wood...

Today, there is a beautiful young woman working at Memorial Hospital in Savannah, Georgia. She is on the peds/neonate team and flies in the LifeStar helicopter to care for sick babies during transport. She also happens to be the niece of a friend - who  flies on that same helicopter.

A decade or so back, I was invited to Jeff Clifton's wedding on Tybee Island. Jeff was at the time my partner every other weekend - sitting next to me in the front seat of a BK-117. We are 10 years apart in age (to the day) and worked well together. Jeanne and I offered to have the reception at our home on Talahi Island and after getting everything set up, we got in our car and headed out highway 80 to the beach for a ceremony on the pier.

There is a narrow bridge just past our island, crossing the Bull River. It is old, only two lanes wide, with concrete rails hard up against the edges. It is a long curving affair, and has been the scene of some spectacular crashes. As we crossed the river doing 60 or so, and began the sweeping right turn, I saw the block of wood in the road in front of me. It was a piece of dunnage or shoring, and probably fell off of a flat-bed truck. It looked to be 10 by 10 and about 18 inches long, and lay right where my left front wheel had to go. As luck would have it, there was no one coming from the other direction, so I was able to swerve across the double yellow line and avoid running over it.

I remember thinking,  "that's gonna  hurt somebody, I should stop and pick it up." Then complacency, or laziness, or bystander mentality kicked in and I thought to myself, screw it. It isn't my problem. And we went to the wedding.

It was a nice ceremony, and Jeff's cousin Tony Moye showed up. Tony is fun to talk to, and we caught up and had some laughs. His daughter was in school to be a nurse - she wanted to take care of babies - and was headed out to join us. But she was running late... and then his phone rang.

She had hit the wood.

When she got to it, there were cars on the other side. She couldn't swerve left as I had done. And couldn't stop in time. The wood destroyed her car's front end, and could have killed her.

I saw it, and knew what it meant,  and did nothing.

Five years later, I knew about another hazardous situation, involving an EMS helicopter pilot. It wasn't at my base, it wasn't going to hurt me, or my wife, and again I did nothing. And then this pilot flew his nurse and his paramedic into a storm and killed them all. I knew about the pilot's willful behavior. I knew that he was comfortable flying near bad weather, indeed I knew that he sometimes told other pilots to do it too.

I should have done something. I should have called him (out). I should have told him an Astar is not a Marine helo, has little power, and is not meant for instrument conditions. I should have told him no job is worth dying for, and flight volume can't be improved by taking chances - not in the long run. I should have pointed out all the others who had made similar mistakes and ended up sorry, or dead.

I should have done something.

But I did nothing. I didn't even send a warning-shot like Dennis did; an email along the lines of "hey guys we have problem here..."

Dennis was told to mind his own business.  But at least he tried. He doesn't have to carry guilt.

I won't be driving past any more blocks of wood in the road. And I hope I can leave HEMS a little better than I found it.

safe flights...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Pilot-not-flying Versus Pilot-monitoring ... Crewmember Versus Passenger

The FAA recently changed terminology regarding two-pilot flight operations. Whereas we used to describe the "pilot flying" and the "pilot not flying," now we are to designate the person not on the controls as the "pilot monitoring." (PM)

Monitoring what?

Well, everything of course - including the aircraft's position, speed, altitude, and attitude, fuel state, and the weather ahead. And also the PFs behavior, mental state, and situational awareness. It would appear that the Feds want to point out that us pilots are human, and subject to make human mistakes, and the other pilot can catch errors if  he or she is paying attention and knows how to make an assertive statement. (Tenerife)

But what about us in our single-pilot helicopter? Who is available to monitor us?

Well, if you asked  the FAA, it wouldn't be the medical crew members on board.

The Feds, in a recent change to rules for HEMS state "... medical personnel cannot be expected to meaningfully participate in the decision-making process to enhance flight safety."

 Heck they don't even consider medical crewmembers to actually be - well - crewmembers. They are just "passengers."

But wait! What about the passenger who sits in an exit row on a commercial passenger jet, and gets briefed on duties and responsibilities associated with sitting there. In short, if the plane crashes that "passenger" is expected to perform certain lifesaving steps to ensure occupants can get off the jet. It's almost as if the FAA, who created this obligation, expects that exit-row passenger to serve, in an emergency, as a "crewmember!"

This for a person who might have only flown once. Not hundreds or thousands of times like a medical "passenger."

Click here for the FAA rule change

Click here for the NTSB report referenced in the FAA's rule change

If you read these documents, you can see how words can get taken out of context, which shifts the meaning of what was written.

This all relates to the FAA wanting all legs of a HEMS flight to be conducted under more stringent "for hire" rules of CFR part 135.. Fair enough.

 But to say that the other humans on board, who are smart,and often have years and years of observing how things work - and can be developed as a resource and added layer of safety monitoring, "cannot participate in the decision making process to enhance flight safety" is just plain wrong.

The real shame is that some of the Drongos out there, flying HEMS, who want the passengers to strap in and shut up, have taken these out-of-context excerpts as validation for their "lone-ranger" mentality. Here's hoping nobody gets killed over this.

CRM does not reach everyone. From the earliest courses to the present, a small subset of 
pilots have rejected the concepts of CRM (Helmreich & Wilhelm, 1991). These CRM failures are 
found in every airline and are known to their peers and to management. Any chief pilot can 
identify these individuals, who have come to be known by a variety of names – Boomerangs, 
Cowboys, and Drongos to mention a few. Efforts at remedial training for these pilots have not 
proved particularly effective. 

Drongos are little birds that fly around and crap on everyone and everything...click here to learn more about the history of using every available resource to greatest benefit.

Most pilots who fly HEMS develop their team mates into resources that can be relied upon to help get the job done. The medical crew does the same thing, having pilots help with loading and unloading, using extra hands while transferring patients from sled to bed, and occasionally even squeezing an ambu or IV bag. Being a helper doesn't take much training, and a helper can be invaluable when the workload gets high. If you as a pilot think that the medical crew are nothing more than a distraction - perhaps you aren't managing the relationship "optimally."

I ask my crewmembers to monitor my performance, as would a second pilot, and to point out anything they think is wrong. In case I somehow missed it. They are the only people in the world who are available to do this.

I ask all crewmembers to actively participate in the decision making process and make the decision to stop if something is wrong; like weather, or fuel state, or the way the pilot is flying or behaving. Only your pilot can decide to go - but any of you can say no...

safe flights.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

And Now on the Lighter Side...

The military teaches Aircrew Coordination, which the airlines would call Crew Resource Management and which we in Helicopter EMS call Air Medical Resource Management (The Feds don't consider crew members to be crew members - go figure - they never get anything wrong)

ACC hinges on

  1. Communicate Positively
  2. Direct Assistance 
  3. Announce Actions
  4. Offer Assistance
  5. Acknowledge actions
  6. Be Explicit 
  7. Provide aircraft control and obstacle advisories 
  8. Coordinate action sequence and timing
Here is how "JB" sees it...

Click image to enlarge...

Thanks to Draper Palmer for sharing this with us...

Not It Could Happen but It Did Happen...

In my post titled "What If?" I considered losing both engines in a twin engine helicopter. (Click here for that post)

It turns out that it has happened more than once, and just as my fictional pilot "Dennis" successfully landed his machine, so did this real life professional.

Bayflite crash-lands on I-275

(Palmetto-AP) -- The pilot of a medical helicopter says he heard
a loud bang just before one of his engines caught fire, forcing him
to make an emergency landing on a state highway.
Amund Moe, pilot of the B-K-1-17 helicopter from Bayfront
Medical Center, told hospital officials he also had trouble with
his second engine. He killed both engines and glided to a rough
landing on Interstate 2-75 in northern Manatee County last night.
Nobody was injured. The infant patient aboard, who was being
transported from Naples Community Hospital to All Children's
Medical Center, is in good condition today.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

An infant patient and three crew members escape unharmed after the "hard landing''near the Skyway.

The NTSB report...

 The pilot said that while in cruise flight at an altitude of 1,000 feet, a speed of about 130 knots, and about 60 percent torque, without warning he heard a loud explosion from the right side of the helicopter, with simultaneous No. 2 engine fire and failure warning lights and indications, along with severe vibrations. He said that the helicopter yawed several times from left to right and he heard a "whopping" sound. He also said that at the same time the No. 1 engine torque meter needle moving rapidly from about the 9 to 3 or 4 o'clock positions on the gauge. The investigation revealed two of the power turbine blades and four rear bearing support housing (RBSH) failed in overload. The hub had been displaced from the engine centerline, and a deflection had occurred at the engine case axial midpoint, along with a misalignment of the inlet housing and the rear bearing support housing (RBSH). The resultant damage to the gas producer (GP) system, was consistent with an assembly error and mechanical failure having occurred by the loss of critical internal operating clearances and radial support for the rotors. Continued engine operation as the failure progressed led to compressor surge and the emergence of combustion gases from the No. 2 engine inlet, which ignited inlet cowling material. The No. 1 engine ingested smoke and combustion by-products from the engine cowling fire which caused a temporary stall condition.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this incident to be:
Improper maintenance/installation of the No. 2 engine power turbine (PT) wheel assembly by company maintenance personnel, which resulted in deflection at the engine case axial midpoint and misalignment between the inlet housing and the rear bearing support housing (RBSH) which resulted in damage to the engine and an in-flight fire.

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 27, 2002
Related video
56k | High-Speed

A Bayflite helicopter carrying an infant patient caught fire over Tampa Bay late Monday and was forced to make an emergency landing near the Sunshine Skyway bridge in northwest Manatee County.
Neither the infant nor four crew members were injured when the helicopter made a "hard landing" about 8:35 p.m. on Interstate 275, between the south Skyway toll booth and U.S. 41.
Crew members jumped out of the helicopter and carried the infant to safety. A second Bayflite helicopter arrived about 20 minutes later and transported the child and two crew members to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg.
"When the helicopter landed it was engulfed in flames," said Gerald Pochodaj, who was driving toward the Skyway when he saw what he thought was a low-flying airplane.
Pochodaj said crew members carried the baby and incubator to safety as flames shot from the right engine.
"These Bayflite folks are the best at what they do," said Bill Hervey, manager of public relations for Bayfront. "They save lives every day. The patient wasn't hurt, the crew wasn't hurt, it was perfect."
The names of baby and the crew members were not released late Monday.
Hervey said Bayflite 3 was 50 minutes into its trip, transporting the infant from Naples Community Hospital to Bayfront, when the warning lights went on, signaling an engine problem.
Another witness saw a small ball of fire near the helicopter as it crossed the bay. One of his children said, "the helicopter . . . it's on fire!"
"You could see a good-sized ball of fire," said Danny Ward, 40, of Bradenton, who was in Rubonia at his sister's house.
He said it was headed toward St. Petersburg and then banked sharply and landed. He said he assumed it did not crash because they didn't hear or see anything.
"That was a good pilot," Ward said.
Pochodaj, an engineer at Transworld Diversified Engineering in Tampa, said the pilot told him that dash lights lit up, the helicopter filled with smoke and they knew they had to land. He called the rescue of the baby heroic.
"Their instinct was to do their job," said Pochodaj, 36.
After the baby and some crew members were picked up, a third helicopter retrieved the remaining crew members.
"Everybody's safe," said Cassandra Morell, Bayfront Medical Center spokeswoman.
The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate why the twin-engine BK-117 developed engine trouble and was forced to make an emergency landing, said Kathleen Bergen, FAA spokeswoman.
"I understand there may have been an engine fire," she said. "Were there mechanical problems? Operational problems?"
A Bayflite maintenance crew dismantled the craft's rotor blades to make it easier to transport. The green and silver helicopter, its right engine charred, was being moved late Monday to a Sarasota airport, home of their Bayflite 2 base, on a flatbed truck.
Hervey, of Bayfront, said the pilot and copter are from Rocky Mountain Helicopter out of Provo, Utah. They contract out staff and equipment, he said.
Such pilots have to have a minimum of 2,000 flight hours to do this kind of work, said Hervey, adding that representatives from Rocky Mountain are coming here to assess the damage.
The hospital routinely has four aircraft in service but keeps a backup, which will immediately go into service.
The last Bayflite helicopter crash was on April 25, 2000, when the medical helicopter hit a radio tower near the Gandy Bridge, killing all three crew members.

Click here for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune story...

Don't lase me bro...

If you aim a laser at a helicopter, you might be headed to jail! Click here.

Courtesy Shutterstock, Robin Lund
Seems kinda stupid doesn't it? To willfully aim a laser at a helicopter? But we have been getting spotlighted for years, so I guess it's not suprising.

We must be ready for whatever whenever and never let our guard down.

safe flights...