September 30, 2013

Plane Speak at Angel MedFlight

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

At Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance and Aviation West Charters there is no shortage of experts to call on. We are proud to have the best in the fields of medicine, aviation, insurance law and case management. Often it's just fun to pick their brains and hear the knowledge come pouring out in the forms of stories. Aviation West Charters Director of Flight Operations Brandon Kearns stopped by the business development offices recently and the conversation turned to favorite commercial aircraft.

I happened to be telling Kearns about my first airplane ride as a little tyke going from San Francisco to Orange County, Calif., on an Air California 737. Immediately, Kearns' eyes lit up as he talked glowingly about the Boeing 737, calling it the most reliable commercial aircraft ever made. "They're everywhere,” Kearns said. "You can't go anywhere in the world without seeing a 737. They're like taxi cabs."

Kearns says the 737's dispatch reliability is hard to top. "It's always been an economical, reliable airplane. The airlines love it. I have friends who have flown it and they talk about how forgiving it is. It's easy to fly, it's like flying a truck. You point it, it goes."

Our conversation turned to the history of commercial jet travel and Kearns talked of the late 1950s and 1960s as commercial aviation's "romantic era." He pointed to the late 50s when the jet engine revolutionized airplane travel and how it opened up different markets because of longer-range aircraft traveling at higher speeds. 

"I had the luxury of talking to guys that taught me how to fly that were P-51 and P-38 pilots from World War II," says Kearns. "They came back and flew the DC-3, then flew the Constellation and the DC-6. And then 1957-58 rolls around and they're flying 707's."

Commercial flight was much different decades ago than it is today. Kearns recalls a conversation he had with one of his former instructors, Jack O'Neill. "Things are so structured and regimented now in terms of how we fly and there are so many airplanes out there. Jack was one of the first 747 captains for American Airlines. He was a P-38 Lightning pilot in the European theater of World War II. Nothing fazed the guy." Kearns goes on, remembering what O'Neill told him. Imitating his former instructor's voice, Kearns says O'Neill would tell him, "Ya know…Literally, I'd flight plan with the navigator so that -- we'd fly over my house!"

Kearns tilts his head back and recalls the FAA examiner who did several of his check rides back in the day. "Capt. Willard Van Wormer. He started at around 19-years-old as a flight engineer on the old Lockheed Constellation back in the late 1950s."  Automation has largely phased out the role of the flight engineer, but Kearns describes how years ago, the flight engineer would sit behind the pilot and co-pilot with a huge panel of switches and gauges.

"Before automation," Kearns says, "you had to have a guy who moved fuel, moved hydraulics, moved switches. Now everything's based on a computer. You say to a computer 'I want this,' the computer goes, 'change this, do this, do this.'  That's what the flight engineer used to do. He used to move all the switches, he used to control the systems." Kearns says the flight engineer was like a big machine operator. The captain pointed the airplane, flew it with the co-pilot, but the flight engineer was the one who handled all the aircraft systems. Looking at a photo of an old 747-200's flight engineer panel shows the enormity of responsibilities this crew member had on the flight deck.

But as the years have passed, it no longer takes two dozen switches, knobs and gauges to handle fuel, auxiliary power, pressurization, air conditioning and the complex electrical systems of an airliner.

At Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance, nothing's more enjoyable than being able to sit down with many of our experts and listen to their knowledge flow. Whether it's a flight paramedic, a logistics manager, creative developer, flight coordinator -- or in this case the flight operations director, while working at Angel MedFlight, you can truly learn something new every day. 

September 24, 2013

Adding Green Makes for Healthier Workplace

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

There's more green on display at Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance. Green in the way of ficus, palms, and bamboos. Always looking for the healthiest workplace,  the leaders in the medical flight industry have added a few more plants to the offices and hallways here at Angel MedFlight. Having plants around the workplace can have several benefits. 

First the obvious, plants can lead to  less stress in a work environment. When multitasking is getting to be too much and the nerves feel a bit frayed, a glance over at a plant can be a calming influence. There's research to back this up. A study by  Dr. Virginia Lohr at Washington State University showed that participants working in an environment with plants present were 12 percent more productive and less stressed than those who worked in an environment without them. Research done by Dr. Roger S. Ulrich of Texas A&M and Helen Russell at Surrey University in England also revealed similar results.

Plants can also improve the air quality in an office as they reduce levels of airborne bacteria and help with mold and dust allergies. Plants can help prevent what's called "Sick Building Syndrome," which is the result of  toxins in the air becoming concentrated inside sealed office buildings. Studies have shown that plants can suck those chemicals out of the air.

Kathy Luksich is a transcriptionist at Angel MedFlight and she has a keen interest in plants. She loves them so much she's studying Urban Horticulture at a local community college. Her  dream is to someday get her bachelor's degree. With two plants on her desk, Luksich says office plants  are "definitely good for the air in generating oxygen and they also give me a calm feeling."

What plants are good to have around the office? Luksich recommends a ficus plant like the ficus benjamina, which is commonly called the weeping fig. While the benjamina ficus does best in bright sun, it can grow in poor growing conditions and tolerates considerable shade. For a little extra color, Luksich likes the Peace Lily, a plant that NASA put on its list of "Top Ten Household Air Cleaning Plants."

If she's not careful, Luksich will get a reputation of  being the plant doctor around our office here in Scottsdale, Arizona. A bamboo palm was not doing so well in a hallway corner so Luksich volunteered to take it home to see if she could revive it. "I've re-potted it, cut off the dead foliage and it looks like it might come back pretty nice."  Luksich says bamboo palms can do well in an office because they can tolerate lower light and they do well indoors. Because we are in Arizona, there's an impulse to get cactus plants for the office, but Luksich says they're not the best choice because they need a lot of sunlight.

Plants are good natural sound barriers in office as they absorb sound.  Studies have shown that a small indoor hedge placed around a workplace can reduce noise levels by about 5 decibels. Less noise and less stress can only lead to a happier workplace and increased productivity.

Looking to reduce stress levels, workplace noise and improve the air quality? Take a tip from Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance and spruce up the office with a dose of green. 

September 18, 2013

A Company Project Gets a Personal Touch

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

Coming together as a team is something we do well at Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance. When something needs a little extra effort to be done quickly and efficiently, we get our team of employees together and take care of the task. That happened this weekend on a large mailing project.

A leader in worldwide air medical transports, Angel MedFlight has an important relationship with hospital case managers that we diligently maintain. One of the ways we stay connected with these case managers is through our mailings. This mailing was to touch base with case managers and directors of case management after meeting with them at national conferences  this summer. Cooper Bolton, Angel MedFlight's graphics designer, had a large role in "the mailer" as we call it and says  about 1800 mailing kits needed to be sent out.

That meant diligently assembling 1800 folders, filling them with Angel MedFlight literature, and then placing the assembled folders into addressed envelopes. It was important for us to send out folders that had literature placed neatly into the envelopes and to have those envelopes addressed by hand. Bolton says handwriting the address gave the mailer a more personal feel to it.

Last week, an office-wide email was sent out asking for volunteers to help this weekend with the mailer. Bolton says about 20 eager volunteers showed up to help. The crew worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday adding the contents to the folder. The folder included a letter from our CEO Jeremy Freer, five brochures, a punch-out Rolodex card, a case manager guide, note pad, business card, mouse pad and a poster.  The Angel MedFlight poster was the newest addition to the packet. This 20" x 28" glossy poster is meant to be hung in hospital case manager break rooms and reminds case managers to "Call Us First." What's especially personal about the poster is the original idea for it was posed to us by a director of case management during a regional conference we exhibited at recently.

Bolton says there was an assembly line set up in one of the larger rooms in the office and each person in the line added a piece of literature to the folder. The completed folder was then placed into an addressed envelope and into a bin. At the end of Saturday most of the mailers were completed. On Sunday, our crack staff finished up a few of the remaining packets and then reviewed the envelopes for quality assurance.

With so many employees coming in on the weekend to help, the mailing kit project was done in about 12 hours. Sure, the job could have been outsourced, but at Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance we strive to exceed expectations. By keeping the project in-house, case managers will notice the extra care that was taken to assemble and mail it. Doing things with extra care and personal touch comes easy to us at Angel MedFlight.

September 16, 2013

Meet Our Team: Videographer Jesse Vanderpool

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

He started his filmmaking career in the woods near his childhood home in Seattle. Inspired by award-winning director Steven Spielberg, Jesse Vanderpool would attend a prestigious film school and would later receive on-screen credits as a cinematographer.  Now, Vanderpool is part of the talented team at Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance as our newest videographer.

Whether it's shooting our fleet of air ambulance jets or patient stories like the ones seen in our "My Real Life Moment™" series, Vanderpool's talents will shine through in the company videos that have become so popular since Angel MedFlight was established in 2007. 
Videographer Jesse Vanderpool

His start behind the camera came as an adventurous 13-year-old. His father had shown him the Spielberg classic, "Saving Private Ryan" and soon after, Vanderpool was out on the family's wooded property making his own war movies. "We'd get some camouflage, BB guns and a camcorder and we'd just take turns being in the movie and then filming," says Vanderpool.

Then his father gave him some life-changing advice . "He said to me, 'Hey, you can make movies for a living.' That was astonishing to me because I had just figured that people just do this for fun," says Vanderpool.

Over the next few years, Vanderpol would make movies about skateboarding, snowboarding, boxing movies, car chases, "anything that we could think of."

Acting on his dad's advice of getting paid to make movies, Vanderpool went to film school in Ventura, Calif., attending the Brooks Institute where he earned his bachelor's degree. He then did several apprenticeships for the American Film Institute and the University of Southern California. Vanderpool also worked a number of years at the New York Film Academy as a teacher's assistant. The academy's classroom just happened to be on the back lot of Universal Studios.

Vanderpool then ventured out into a freelance career where he did several documentaries and corporate videos for companies like Boeing and United Technologies. After working as a director of photography at a production company, Vanderpool   landed at Angel MedFlight in Scottsdale.
Vanderpool enjoys working on documentaries and with families because, "You don't really know what the story is going to be until you're there filming it. And you are not directing the story -- the story is directing you."

Vanderpool likes the challenge at Angel MedFlight of traveling on a moment's notice to film a patient story. It's fewer cameras and often a one-man production, but Vanderpool lives by the motto: Restriction breeds creativity. He says when you are limited and there isn't a lot of time to plan, you have to rely more on your spontaneous creativity.

Vanderpool became interested in Angel MedFlight after viewing some of the company's videos. "They were really similar to my style and I could really appreciate them. I thought I would make a great fit," says Vanderpool.  "I think it's an amazing company that helps people and I feel my time is very valuable here."

A lover of airplanes and his craft, Vanderpool fits right into the staff at Angel MedFlight. He has an 18-month-old daughter and another son on the way.

Vanderpool hasn't forgotten the days of rolling around in the dirt as a youngster making war movies. He likes to play paintball in his spare time.

September 13, 2013

'Historic Leap' for Voyager 1

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

Occasionally here at Angel MedFlight we like to recognize  achievements in flight and scientific exploration. Although we are an air ambulance provider – we have raised the bar in patient care – and continually strive to exceed our patients' expectations. In terms of space exploration, NASA's Voyager 1 has exceeded expectations as the space agency announced Thursday the probe has become the first spacecraft to reach interstellar space.
Artist's depiction of Voyager spacecraft (NASA)

The space probe and its twin Voyager 2 were launched a few months apart in the summer of 1977 from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Their original mission was to conduct close-up studies of Jupiter and Saturn, Saturn's rings along with the larger moons of the two planets. With that mission completed and all instruments on both probes operational, NASA provided additional funding for them to press onward. The interstellar mission began in 1990.

According to NASA, the 36-year-old Voyager 1  probe is about 12 billion miles from our sun and has been traveling for about a year through plasma present in the space between stars. Yes, the probe left our solar system more than a year ago but scientists needed to be sure by studying the evidence.
Ed Stone, a Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology says, "Now that we have new, key data, we believe this is mankind's historic leap into interstellar space." Stone says the Voyager team needed time to analyze the observations and make sense of them. "But we can now answer the question we've all been asking -- 'Are we there yet?' Yes we are."

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were launched just over two weeks apart in 1977. Both spacecraft flew by Jupiter and Saturn but Voyager 2 also passed by Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 2 is the longest continuously operated spacecraft and is about 9.5 billion miles from the sun.

Both probes continue to send data back to earth. NASA says mission controllers talk or receive data from them every day but the emitted signals are very faint -- about 23 watts, which is the power of a refrigerator light bulb. By the time those signals get back to earth, NASA says they are a fraction of a billion-billionth of a watt. The signals take about 17 hours to reach mission control.

 According to NASA, Voyager 1 is in a transitional region just outside the solar bubble called the heliosphere, where some effects from the sun are still evident. Scientists aren't sure when Voyager 1 will reach the part of interstellar space where there is no influence from our sun. They also don't know when Voyager 2 will cross into interstellar space like its twin, but they believe it's not very far behind.

The first circumnavigation of the earth, the first man on the moon and now the first spacecraft to leave our solar system. Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance applauds the scientists and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA for this achievement in space exploration.

As Disney's Buzz Lightyear would say, "To Infinity and beyond!"

September 11, 2013

Hours After 9/11, Virtually Alone In The Skies

Sharon Mico is pictured top right, seated in front (Photo: Dory Graves)

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

Twelve years ago this week, airliners hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, another jet hit the Pentagon and Flight 93 went down into a field near Shanksville, Pa. On Sept. 12, 2001, a day after the terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000, Angel MedFlight's Sharon Mico was in the air working as a flight attendant -- when virtually all other aircraft had been grounded.

In the summer of 2001, Mico was working as a flight attendant for Sierra Pacific Airlines. Sierra Pacific was a charter carrier  that the Bureau of Land Management had contracted to transport firefighters to and from wildfires. Mico was on call, living for the summer in a hotel in Boise, Idaho.

Mico remembers waking up the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 and turning on CNN. It was minutes after the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Mico remembers thinking at the time, "How could the pilot not avoid the World Trade Center?" Then, when United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower, Mico thought the same thing as many of us that day. "We're being attacked."

The first thing Mico did was call her mother to tell her that she was okay, that it wasn't one of her company's planes. She went down to the lobby and watched the rest of the horror unfold on television. When she returned to her hotel room hours later, the message light was blinking on her telephone. She called dispatch. The voice on the other end said to get ready; she and the rest of her crew would be picked up at 6 p.m. and taken to Boise Airport. She told the dispatcher everything's been grounded. How can we be flying now? The dispatcher answered. She along with two other flight attendants and three pilots would be flying FEMA workers to Baltimore-Washington for the Pentagon recovery operation and then to Newark to drop off the crews working at Ground Zero.

Quality Assurance Director Sharon Mico
Once Mico arrived at the airport in Boise, it was delay upon delay. The Sierra Pacific jet was stuck on the ground for hours as each member of the crew went through a new tighter round of background checks.

The FEMA crews were picked up in Mather, Calif. Nothing but a few hushed voices were heard on the 737-200 as the somber flight made its way back east. The first stop was Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) and as the plane made its way into BWI's airspace, Mico looked out the window to see two F-16 fighter jets flying alongside the airliner.  She's not sure how the Sierra Pacific pilot knew for sure but he later told Mico that those F-16s had their "missiles locked on us." She says, "Had we deviated off course I may not be sitting here talking to you today."

Once on the ground in Baltimore, Mico remembers it was the weirdest thing she had ever seen. "No movement in this airport. I mean, Baltimore? BWI? Nobody. Nothing. It was eerie."

After letting off 38 FEMA workers at BWI, Mico and her crew took off for Newark. It was a short hop from Baltimore to New Jersey, barely up and down. It was early in the morning on the 12th.  As the sun rose in the eastern sky, the jet flew closer into New York airspace. Seeing this, Mico walked up to the cockpit door, opened it and asked one of the pilots if he would take a photograph as they flew near Ground Zero. Mico says the photo shows twin plumes of smoke coming up from what once was The World Trade Center.

The FEMA crews heading to Ground Zero had now deplaned in Newark. Mico had now been up almost 24 hours, running mostly on adrenaline now. The Sierra Pacific jet was mostly empty, flying back to Boise with just the crew. Upon arrival in Boise, Mico says she gathered with her fellow crewmembers at the hotel and decompressed. For more than a day she had to hold it together, keeping emotions at bay as she transported 76 FEMA workers to two of the saddest scenes in American history. Finally back in her hotel room, she looked at some newspapers that recounted the horrible events of the day before. As she turned the pages and looked at the photos, she could no longer hold back the tears.

Twelve years later, Mico recall details of her trip like it was yesterday. Mico, now The Quality Assurance Manager at Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance, has some photos from that day but unfortunately she cannot locate the one that was taken of  Ground Zero from the air. Perhaps a photo is not needed. The memories are powerful enough.

September 4, 2013

Pilots Train as Angel MedFlight Awaits Citation X's Arrival

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

Angel MedFlight's Citation X (shown before modifications and new livery)
Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance is highly anticipating the arrival of our newest acquisition -- the Cessna Citation X. As we wait for the fastest civilian aircraft in its class to return from upgrades, modifications and a new paint job, a number of Angel MedFlight pilots are undergoing training to fly this awesome jet.

Kindle Tannery is Chief Pilot for Angel MedFlight's Part 135 air carrier certificate holder Aviation West Charters and explains that aircraft that weigh over 12,500 pounds require a type rating. "The systems are going to be so complex, you need training on various systems of that aircraft," says Tannery.

Citation X cockpit (photo by Richard Masoner)
Take for example a King Air 200. It's less than 12,500 pounds but a King Air 350 is over 12,500 and needs a type rating. "Basically, any aircraft that weighs less than 12,500 pounds, I don't have to go get special training -- I can hop in and go fly," says Tannery.

”The FAA requires pilots to get special training and get checked out and it's noted on your license and your pilot certificate that you are qualified to fly this aircraft." Tannery has on his pilot's license Learjet 35, Learjet 60 and soon, Citation X.

The schooling can take anywhere from three to six weeks to complete. Tannery says, "It's very intense. You really have to shut off the world. A lot of things in your personal life, you have to filter those things out and really focus on this training."

Tannery's training near Dallas, Texas lasted 21 days. There were several eight-hour days of classroom study followed by training in the simulator. After each day in the classroom, Tannery says he would go home and spend another four to six hours reviewing what he had learned that day and preparing for the next day ahead. "It's a lot of book study, reading and understanding the systems," says Tannery.

There are two types of training. One starts with the ground work and systems knowledge and after that, the flight training. "First they bring you in and teach you the systems, the basics and then they add to that knowledge things like system malfunctions. And you go through various degrees as you prepare to jump into the simulator." says Tannery. "You just don't go to flight school and jump in the 'sim,' you have to understand what you're getting yourself into." Tannery says he spent 10 days in the classroom before even touching the simulator.

Simulator training is when a pilot in training applies what he's learned in the classroom. Tannery says everything you can imagine, they can throw at you in the simulator. "They are so realistic that you feel like you've done it already. When you are in a simulator you don't think you're in a simulator." Tannery says the visual effects are very accurate as far as landing, airport environments, taxiing when you're on the ground. It is the best video game that you'll ever see."

Angel MedFlight looks to have the Citation X in air ambulance service in the fall. Because of this aircraft's speed and increased range, more people around the world will be able to experience Angel MedFlight's unparalleled patient care.