June 28, 2013

Knowing Where It Is And Where It Has To Go

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

Simply amazing. That's what you think when you walk away from the medical supply storage area of our Clinical Logistics Manager Troy Miller. Every piece of medical equipment, down to the smallest swab or wipe is in its place. It has to be so that on a moment's notice, it can be sent to one of our air ambulances in the field. 

Miller not only keeps track of the supply inventory, he must know where every one of our air ambulance jets are positioned and keep track of their flight plan so he doesn't send a package of supplies to the wrong destination. Miller has to be skilled in all aspects of procurement, material handling, packaging, transportation, warehousing and the security of medical supplies and equipment.

Miller says there are probably close to 400 types of medical equipment in his supply room that are carried on our aircraft. "I have to make sure that I have enough supplies here to be able to stock all of our medical bag sets."  He even makes sure he has enough supplies to restock all of our aircraft if they all went empty at one time.

As for the medical bags that go on our jets, they are all identically configured. And Miller has a schematic which shows what goes into each compartment of that medical bag. Each medical crew gets seven bags of equipment and supplies for a medical flight. "And every single bag has the exact same thing in every single spot," says Miller.  Included are electronic medical equipment and every piece of disposable medical supply, which includes medications.

Miller has a series of shelves where he's arranged all the supplies that go into one medical flight. All the items that have to be charged are on their own shelf and plugged into a series of electrical outlets. Monitors, suction units, IV infusion pumps and even the iPads and Bose headsets for the patients and their family members are getting powered up.

Another shelf has the ventilator bag, the primary medical bag, a secondary bag and a medication bag plus a  computer bag. The cardiac monitor gets its own bag. It looks to this observer to be an overwhelming task to keep track of all this equipment and make sure it gets in the hands of our medical flight crews. But Miller has it down to a science.

The most challenging part of Miller's job is keeping track of where our flight crews are and making sure they have the necessary supplies. This Phoenix air ambulance company's base of operations is where we land. Our aircraft rarely come back to our hangar in Scottsdale. If they did return regularly, Miller's job would be a lot easier. He'd just restock them as they came in. But in Miller's world, the opposite holds true. He sends the supplies and equipment out to the aircraft. And these are aircraft that are sometimes on the ground for a short time, meaning Miller must  anticipate and send the supplies on ahead to where the air ambulance is to land next.

Miller admits he's a bit OCD and likes everything in its place. He says it runs in the family as his father and uncle built race cars and motorcycles  and the garage had every bolt, every engine part, you name it, tucked away neatly. You ask Miller where something is in his storage area, he points to it in seconds. If he's out of the office, he knows in his head where the item is in case he has to tell someone else to retrieve it.  

Paying attention to details. Miller does it and this exemplifies the attention to detail patients can expect when they choose Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance for their medical flight.

June 27, 2013

Going Long: The International Medical Flights

An Angel MedFlight Learjet 60

By Angel MedFlight Contributor
The medical flight crews are called and dispatched to the sending facility. The bedside-to-bedside service begins as the flight nurse and flight paramedic meet the patient. The pilots have the jet prepped for the medical flight. This trip takes not one set of pilots but two. Angel MedFlight is making one of its many international flights, exemplifying its true global reach.
A recent Angel MedFlight trip took a passenger from California to Turkey.  One of our Learjet 60s was used for the 7,383-mile trek  into Istanbul. As one would imagine, it takes a little more planning for an international flight.  Special landing permits are needed to touch down in other nations and Angel MedFlight flight coordinator Stacey Barnard says, "that typically takes 48 to 72 hours."
This particular trip needed two pilot crews because  of FAA regulations. Barnard says the pilots can fly for only 14 hours a day and this trip needed a fuel stop after every 2,000 miles. When the medical flight touched down for refueling in Ireland, a fresh crew was waiting to take over. The first crew stayed in Ireland and rested, ready to take over for the second crew on the trip back. 
Istanbul, Turkey
Angel MedFlight is proud of its reputation as   a worldwide air ambulance company. Its jets have flown to six continents.  Another recent medical flight helped a vacationer get back to the U.S. from a remote location in Peru, where she had to undergo emergency surgery. That was a trip of over 4,200 miles.
Angel MedFlight recently acquired a Citation X, a longer-range and faster aircraft. In fact, when the Citation X is ready for its first medical transport this summer it will be the fastest air ambulance in its class. "The X" as we like to call it around the office, can cruise at 51,000 feet and rocket through the air at almost 700 miles per hour, which is just shy of the sound barrier.
The Citation X is currently undergoing modifications and when completed will have improved avionics and winglets. Those upturned edges on the wings translates into more speed, better fuel efficiency and a better time-to-climb ratio. Flight Operations Director Brandon Kearns says the winglets "improve the operational efficiency of the airplane and increases its actual range capability." This aircraft is also being equipped with satellite Wi-Fi  so no matter where the airplane is around the globe it will have internet connectivity. Angel MedFlight will soon have its entire fleet of jets Wi-Fi ready.

With offices in Arizona, Angel MedFlight is not a Phoenix air ambulance but a worldwide leader in the medical flight industry. Our crews will fly to virtually all ends of the earth to deliver  our exceptional patient care.

June 26, 2013

Connected In The Sky

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

You know how frustrating it can be to climb into an airplane and be told by the flight attendant it's time to power off all electronic devices.  For without Wi-Fi, that can mean hours without being connected to the outside world. That loss of connectivity is a thing of the past with Angel MedFlight and our Part 135 charter holder Aviation West Charters. Soon, our entire fleet of jets will be wired for internet access.

Aviation West Charters dba Angel MedFlight owns and maintains a fleet of aircraft that includes Learjets plus the newest addition to our fleet, the Citation X. The latest of our jets to be Wi-Fi ready is the Learjet N160AJ which is due out of maintenance Friday.

Brandon Kearns is Director of Flight Operations and says having all of our planes Wi-Fi equipped has many benefits noting that  patients and their families plus charter passengers will be able to do work, coordinate with their home office and send and receive emails. "They'll be able to receive time critical information and never be out of reach," says Kearns. "Whether they're on the ground or in flight, they're going to always be able to stay connected. It's like creating an environment of a mobile office."
For Angel MedFlight air ambulance transports, Wi-Fi will not only give flight nurses added connectivity with our flight coordinators and Medical Director on the ground, but offer an added convenience to their families during medical flights.

How does a jet cruising anywhere from 400 to almost 700 miles per hour keep a Wi-Fi signal? Kearns says it's similar to the same technology that we use every day in our cars. But our jets have two types of Wi-Fi systems. First, they have the ground-based system which works off towers (similar to how your  smartphone connects to the 3G or 4G networks). The jets also have satellite Wi-Fi which is used mostly for international flights when the aircraft is out over the ocean.
Along with having Wi-Fi added, Kearns says our Learjet N160AJ has been undergoing the mandatory required maintenance that the airplanes "must have under our strict maintenance program, ensuring the safety of the airplane."

The Citation X is also Wi-Fi equipped and is in the process of getting other modifications as well including avionics and increased performance capabilities. This aircraft will get the winglet mod which Kearns says "improves the operational efficiency of the airplane in terms of fuel burn and increases the actual range capabilities."

"Adding Wi-Fi to our fleet of jets not only benefits patients but makes our entire operation more efficient,"  says Angel MedFlight Chief Operating Officer Ratislav "Rusty" Valko. Kearns says the new Wi-Fi capability benefits the pilots and allows medical crews to be able to relay time-critical patient information in real time.

Wi-Fi connectivity for patients in need of critical care is another example of how Angel MedFlight, a Phoenix air ambulance company with worldwide reach, is always working to improve how we care for our patients.

June 25, 2013

Meet Our Team: Roberto Antonio, Claims Department

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

For a company that began in 2007, Roberto Antonio is one of the longer-tenured employees at Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance. He's worked a number of jobs at our Arizona office since arriving in early 2009 but  he's now the company's Chief Revenue Recovery Officer. Antonio works with the claims department, seeing that payments from insurance companies are coming in and that they are correct.

Like many employees at Angel MedFlight, Antonio is a patient advocate, making sure the patients are getting the insurance benefits they are entitled to. "Patients spend their whole life paying into their health insurance, month after month after month. And they expect that one day when they need their insurance that it will come through and take care of them. We often see that insurance companies don't want to pay what they are responsible for. We try to do whatever we can so that the patient doesn't have to take on that burden." Antonio adds, "If we can get the insurance to give us an authorization then we won't charge the patient a penny."

When insurance companies don't preauthorize the medical flight then Angel MedFlight takes a retainer, but  as Antonio says, "Our job then becomes, 'How can we get this retainer back to the patient." And there is no happier time than when this Phoenix air ambulance company with worldwide reach is able to return that retainer. "I know that for me that's one of the biggest motivators when I do get a claim processed and paid out is...it makes me feel good that we were able to get that retainer back to the patient, " says Antonio.

This longtime Angel MedFlight employee has had the pleasure of making many calls to patients to inform them they were getting back their retainer for their past medical flight. "Those are good calls. You feel good. You feel good after several months of fighting the insurance companies and being able to call that person back and tell them we have some good news for them. And we make sure that money gets back to them as soon as possible," says Antonio.

Antonio was born and raised in Chicago but as a teenager moved to Laredo, Texas because his father's company was relocated south of the border with Mexico. He recalls how his father would leave on Sundays to work in Mexico and then come back home to Laredo on Friday night. That same work ethic has been passed on to Antonio who has been a versatile employee. He started with the company as a flight coordinator but his insurance background made him a great fit in the claims department. Antonio has also worked on data entry with our cloud-based customer relationship management product. And when the marketing team has called, Antonio has been there helping with mailing projects.

Being a loyal member of the team is important to Antonio so he's  even rolled up the sleeves and moved desks and boxes and hung pictures around the office. "Whatever it takes to help out," says Antonio.  He says it's that team effort which sets the company apart. "Our employees are willing and able to do whatever it takes to make the company succeed."

On a personal note, it's been a rough week for Antonio. His favorite sports team is, appropriately, the San Antonio Spurs and they recently lost to the Miami Heat in a tightly-contested, seven-game NBA Finals.  "That loss was detrimental to my psychological well-being," says Antonio. When he's not cheering on the Spurs, he's rooting with great passion for the Mexican professional soccer club Cruz Azul. 

June 24, 2013

Fill Her Up! Fueling the Angel MedFlight Jets

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

We've all seen parts of the process while at the airport or sitting on an airliner looking out the window waiting for pushback, but what actually goes in to fueling an aircraft? At Angel MedFlight, our flight crews make sure that when a fuel stop is necessary, the process is done safely and efficiently.

Kindle Tannery is Chief Pilot at Aviation West Charters, which is the FAA F.A.R. Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate Holder for Angel MedFlight. "For the safety of flight, the first thing you have to determine is how much fuel you need. The captain will come up with a number and will verify with the co-captain or flight officer for that day," says Tannery.

If the distance between sending and receiving facilities is too great and we don't have enough fuel to get to our destination, we'll plan a fuel stop. Tannery says, "Our crews know in advance how far they can go and how much fuel they're going to burn. In our cars we drive around until the fuel gauge is on empty. With our aircraft, we have a plan and know how far we can go." 

When our jets land at a tech stop (or fuel stop) at a fixed base operator (FBO), the pilots make sure the fuel they're getting is one they're familiar with. They look for well-known brands. "We're not going to have some guy pull up in a truck with a barrel on the back of it." Tannery says there are countermeasures in place in case this happens. "The pilot has the means to test the fuel before it's even loaded on."

When the crew had decided on how much fuel the jet needs, one crew member supervises the loading of the fuel. Before the nozzles are even hooked up to the aircraft, the pilot will ensure that the fueler is trained on the truck. The pilot also makes sure the fuel truck has been sumped, which means all the water and contaminants have been removed from the fuel.

The pilot supervises the actual fueling because as Tannery puts it, "There are many different types of aircraft and there's one fuel guy so he may not be familiar with all the aircraft. The pilot is there to assist him in hooking up the aircraft and making sure everything is fueled properly."

A very important part of the fueling process is grounding the aircraft to prevent a static charge. The fuelers are required to ground the aircraft to the fuel truck or to the ground before they touch the nozzle to the aircraft. They do this by taking a cable from the truck and attaching it to what a looks like a microphone jack on the plane. The cable is plugged in and the aircraft is now grounded. Tannery says where the ground is depends on the aircraft. "Sometimes they're on the wing, sometimes they're next to the fuel ports, sometimes they're just connected to a piece of metal on the gear."

Tannery says our pilots like to spend no longer than 30 minutes on the ground for a fuel stop. "Land, get your fuel, pay and then you're on your way." Angel MedFlight picks out airports specifically for quick turnarounds. Tannery says the FBO in Salina, Kansas "is one we love to go to because they're very good at getting the aircraft in, taking care of payment and taking care of the fuel." Tannery says in Salina (SLN), they can get our planes in and out in about 20 minutes.

Gallons or pound of fuel? Our pilots will tell the fuel truck operator gallons, "but we need pounds," says Tannery. We calculate how much fuel we'll need by the burn and we'll burn on the average 1,500 pounds an hour of fuel." That's about 225 gallons.

There are two types of fuel at FBOs:  Avgas (for piston engines) and Jet A, which is kerosene-based. Tannery says Avgas is lead-based and yes, you could put some in your car but "it's going to run really hot." Our Learjet 35 can actually operate on either fuel with certain limitations. Tannery says it's not commonly done but in a pinch, the Lear 35 could get you there on Avgas.

Fueled and ready for takeoff, an Angel MedFlight air ambulance is off to its next medical flight.

June 21, 2013

Heading Toward Another Milestone

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

February 13, 2009 is a date that doesn't stand out for any particular reason to most people, but for Angel MedFlight's marketing team it was the birth of something big. On that winter day almost four and a-half years ago, the Angel MedFlight Facebook page was born. It began with baby steps, but now the child is all grown up and our Facebook page is quickly approaching 14,000 likes.  

Screenshot of the first Angel MedFlight Facebook post in February 2009.

Launched in May 2004, Facebook had around 200 million active users by the Spring of 2009. Today that number is estimated at over 1.1 billion. When Angel MedFlight launched its Facebook page the social media site's boom had just begun. As word spread about our air ambulance service and our patented One Touch Promise®, our Facebook community began to grow.

Looking back at our Facebook history is like opening up the trunk in the attic and waxing nostalgic. Our posts looked somewhat different back then as we learned what you liked to see most. In January of 2010 -- two big milestones -- our first post to get double-digit likes. The post heralded passing the 1,000 fans mark.

Screenshot of Angel MedFlight Facebook post after reaching 1,000 page likes

As the company grew so did the number of medical flights. And almost a year into having a Facebook presence we began to let our readers know on a regular basis where our patient transports had taken us. For instance, in January 2010 we told you about a transport from Houston to Aiken, South Carolina. Ten likes. A week later, a patient transport from Florida to Illinois -- 12 likes. February 17, 2010 we let you know  about a 3,630-mile transport from Hawaii to Wichita Falls, Texas -- 15 likes. The Facebook presence was picking up speed.
By the summer of 2010 there were more photos on the page. We learned our Facebook friends enjoyed seeing more of the worldwide locations we fly to along with our appearances at trade shows, national conferences and charity events.  June 8, 2010 we posted an album of "Photos from the Flight Crews" and we were thrilled to see that album receive 158 likes and 21 comments.  By the spring of 2011 the double-digit likes for individual posts were commonplace and our Facebook presence was established.

As the months passed, we added regular features, like employee profiles, trivia questions, links to our blogs and one of the fan favorites, aviation facts (a regular Friday post).

Today as we draw closer to 14,000 Facebook friends, we want to thank all of you for engaging us there. We hope that our Facebook page has helped you learn more about our company and our commitment to providing the best patient care in the air ambulance industry. Now, it's full-throttle to 15k.

Scorched Earth: Wildfire Season is Well Underway

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

The biggest wildfire in state history has scorched more than 22 square miles in Colorado. In California's Yosemite National Park, 2,200 firefighters are still dealing with a blaze caused by an unattended campfire.  Here in Arizona, hundreds of residents have been evacuated near Prescott as a wildfire has burned to within a mile of some homes. Just days away from the start of summer, wildfires are already raging in the West. Cris Lecher is a flight paramedic with Angel MedFlight and has personal experience dealing with these blazes.
A wildfire rages in Arizona

Lecher has fought wildland fires for over 16 years and was a captain with the Hellsgate Fire Department in Star Valley, Ariz., He's worked on some of the biggest wildfires in the state's history. "The biggest difficulty with a wildfire is it's not in a confined box like a structure fire is. It's pretty much able to go where the wind and the topography want  to take it."

The anchor point is basically where all the fires start, says Lecher and firefighters "need to start at the heel, anchor in and then go around the flanks of the fire. But it's kind of hard to figure that out if you don't know where the winds and the weather are expected. "
Angel MedFlight Flight Paramedic Cris Lecher

Lecher says the biggest enemy for crews fighting wildfires is the wind. "When you have predominant Southwest winds in the summer, it just superheats the fuel in front of the fire and it makes it pretty explosive."

As for the chief cause of wildfires, Lecher says "a lot of them have to do with human fires like "someone not paying attention to the fire danger signs. There are a lot of illegal campfires." Lecher says when the monsoon season starts in Arizona, most of the wildfires in the state are caused by lightning.

A lot of wildfire prevention has to do with thinning out the forests, but the federal government is spending less these days on clearing out dead trees and flammable underbrush in Western forests. According to a story by The Associated Press, the government is spending less on the Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program than it did in 2002. Lecher says the spending cuts "are going to be a detriment to our forests and to our communities."

Lecher now cares for patients on our air ambulances, but he thinks back to the dangers of fighting wildfires. He recalls the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in the summer of 2002, which until the Wallow Fire in 2011, was the worst in Arizona's history. There were "300-foot flame lengths off the tops of pine trees and it was running at four miles per hour. In a wildland fire with a flame front that's 20 miles long, that's a lot of fire."

He remembers a day during that fire when his crew was supporting a line of dozers which were going in and thinning some brush "and we had no idea where the fire was. And all of a sudden I felt the ground shaking and looked down below and the dozers were full-power coming up the hill and the dozer boss said, 'Get out of here, it's coming." Lecher says they made it up the hill and by the time they got into their trucks, "the fire had come in and there was fire over the tops of our engines. That was probably the closest that I've come to just praying to God that I make it out of this."

Lecher's advice for people near wildfires is to heed evacuation orders. "They're not only risking their lives" when they don't evacuate, "but they're risking the lives of the firefighters."  He says residents should get their valuables and pets "and get out of there and let the firefighters do what they do best."