By: Angel MedFlight Contributor
To some degree, everyone has had the unpleasant experience of operating heavy machinery on slippery ground or in low visibility - or both. The lack of control over your own vehicle is stressful enough, but counting on motorists sharing the road to be cautious as well can make anyone sweat a little.
Similarly (but on a much larger scale), pilots endure danger from the elements too. Imagine flying through freezing temperatures, snow covering the sky and limiting your visibility, and ice beginning to form, further limiting your visibility. You are on your approach for a landing with only your electronics to guide your descent. The runway is not in your range of sight and is nearly covered in snow and ice. Your flight crew trusts you to make the landing safely, as you always do. How do you feel now?
This scenario occurred for one air ambulance while medically-transporting a patient to Canada. Upon a fairly safe touchdown, the fixed-wing Lear 35 skidded a slight right, causing one wing to contact a large pile of snow on the side of the runway. Ice buildup and heavy snow conditions forced the plane into a slide. Luckily, the pilot was able to bring the plane to a halt - resulting in no injuries onboard. The plane, however, did suffer some damage in the incident. By following their training and procedure, the pilots did everything right.
Airports do their best to manage these conditions - especially those where weather conditions are a common problem. They clear runways of snow and ice regularly and maintain the safest possible landing environment - not usually an issue for our home base landings in Scottsdale, AZ.
Unfortunately, weather can have an effect on all methods of travel and can be unpredictable. It is up to air ambulance pilots and crew members to ensure a safe flight for patients and passengers. Angel MedFlight flight crew Captains are training throughout each year to maximize awareness and safety procedures. They are required to complete semi-annual simulator training (FlightSafety, Simuflite) in make and model aircraft being flown, maintain 1st class medical, and perform FAA checkrides. A patient's safety is Angel MedFlight's top priority.
Angel MedFlight is proud to earn a Gold ranking with ARGUS for our record of safety. ARGUS performs on-site audits of flight operation, maintenance, and safety. Our safety requirements are exceeding the current Gold rating expectations. A Platinum ranking is in the near future - securing our promise of air ambulance safety for years to come.