Omniflight EMS ops

Company flies diverse fleet of helicopters and airplanes from more than 70 emergency medical service bases throughout US.

The St Mary's EC145 IFR flightdeck is equipped with dual Chelton EFIS displays, a Sagem MFD/map display, Garmin GNS530 and 430 nav/com systems and full 4-axis AFCS.

"We can increase overall system reliability by managing available assets," he says. "We operate within a regional structure and each region boasts an excellent management team. We will provide them with ... corporate assets like spares, IT systems and training available to them on-site.

"Dependability is all about having depth so we can respond to irregularities in the system," he continues. "We need sufficient aircraft sparing ratios strategically placed throughout the system-and we need relief crews in place to support sick leave and vacation events among base personnel."

All training, maintenance oversight and corporate administrative functions are centralized at ADS. The largest concentration of bases and aircraft is in Arizona, where in 2004 Omniflight acquired Native American Air. Omniflight's fleet includes AgustaWestland A119 Koalas, Bell 206 LongRangers, Bell 222s, Eurocopter BK117s, EC135s, EC145s and various models of AS350 AStar.

Pilatus PC12s and Hawker Beechcraft King Airs round out the fleet. Future plans are to standardize around 1 or 2 aircraft types and consolidate support. Additional standardization plans involve the administrative and operational structure-also part of DiNota's plan for improving flight operations.

Daily routines

Each Arizona operating base is staffed with 4 pilots, 4 paramedics, 4 nurses and 1 maintenance technician. The Eurocopter AS350 AStar is the standard base aircraft, the majority of them AS350B2s and B3s.

Air One Bell 206L LongRanger lands at its EMS base at Ruston LA after a patient flight.

Pilots and the maintenance technician report to an aviation base manager and medical crewmembers to a medical base manager, reflecting the dual disciplines that operate in partnership at an EMS helicopter base.

Medical crewmembers work a 24-hr shift and pilots a 12-hr shift. Maintenance technicians are on call 5 days a week, 24 hours a day. Generally, the base technician comes in every morning during the week and reviews flight activity to schedule his inspection tasks and take care of daily maintenance.

Weekends are covered by on-call technicians from regional maintenance facilities or by other base technicians who swap weekend coverage with each other. Pilots are responsible for keeping their aircraft clean and servicing the medical oxygen system.

Omniflight provides specialized training to all pilots on use of the base oxygen cart to top off the helicopter's medical oxygen. Medical crewmembers take care of their section of the cabin and the patient area. Shift changes are scheduled between 0530 and 0730 and are staggered throughout the base system so that no more than one base is in shift change at a time, ensuring maximum availability for incoming calls.

The medical crew changes shift on the morning schedule-pilots change both morning and evening. With each pilot shift change the crew does a briefing in accordance with the company ops manual. The duty pilot uses a comprehensive checklist of topics, current weather and its impact on operations, condition of the aircraft, emergency procedures and any concerns the medical crew may have.

This Bell 222 is the flagship of the Careflight program at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls SD.

At the end of the briefing all 3 crewmembers initial a log, documenting that the briefing was conducted. This helps the medical crew and pilot stay in close touch, enhancing internal communications. The briefing also helps the crews ensure that all are aware of and prepared to deal with any flight emergency.

When pilots report in for their shift they sign in to the Operational Control Center (OCC) via a computerized form. Their sign-in time starts the OCC duty time clock for that pilot. The form gives the pilot 3 weather options-green, yellow and red.

Yellow and red require supporting notes and affect the release of any flight during the period of marginal weather. Next the pilot fills out a section documenting the preflight inspection, time remaining until the next maintenance event, and a risk assessment-an FAA mandated process required of all EMS pilots.

Pilots use a scale of factors that affect his/her personal risk as a tool to develop their score for the day.These factors include state of training and currency, personal life issues, weather, and whether the shift will include night flying.

Company launch protocols

OCC specialists review each pilot's sign-in. If they see any irregularities they contact the pilot to work them out. Only when the OCC has reviewed and approved the sign-in can the pilot be released for flight.

This OCC concept takes the recent FAA emphasis on operational control to an even more precise level. The detailed, item-by-item review of all the preflight release factors is a model for ensuring near-optimum operational oversight. With the OCC sign-in and crew brief complete, the base is ready to accept flights.

Native Air PC12 flies over Show Low AZ on a patient flight. Native Air is Omniflight's aerromedial operation in Arizona for both helicopters and airplanes.

The company's Communications Center is the primary point of contact for all calls for service. Hospitals, fire departments and EMS agencies call the Communications Center when a patient needs to be moved quickly. Communications specialists scan their computerized area map to calculate which aircraft should take the call, considering available helicopters and geographical proximity.

Once a base is selected, an alert call goes out to that base with the patient's location-be it an accident scene or hospital-and body weight. The duty pilot responds using a Nextel pager/cell phone. Simultaneously, the OCC specialist reviews the current shift information to ensure that aircraft and pilot are legal to make the flight.


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