Arkansas Children's Hospital has a pair of angels with rotors
Angel One flies 2 Sikorksy S76C+ helos for ACH with 2 new D-models on order.
Line Pilot Van Walker learned to fly helicopters in the Army during Vietnam. Like many of Angel One's pilots, he worked for PHI before becoming an ACH employee.
He logged hundreds of hours flying relief missions following Hurricane Katrina. In 2006 the Guard called Adams back to Little Rock to fly Bell OH58 Kiowas in counter drug missions. When his Guard unit converted to the Eurocopter UH72 Lacotas (a militarized version of the Eurocopter EC145), Adams was one of the first to qualify in the new aircraft and went on to become an instructor pilot and to implement Lacota hoist operations within the Arkansas Guard.
In his civilian life, Adams joined Zane Anderson's Aerial Patrol where he flew power line inspection missions and developed his administrative skills, advancing to the position of chief pilot and check airman.
EMT Coordinator Ray Yarberry is responsible for Angel One's 4 ground based ambulances and the 14 EMTs who crew them.
In 2012 he was deployed to Laredo TX to fly counter drug missions and serve as task force standardization officer, where he instructed in utilization of the mission equipment package including a thermal imaging system and wireless downlink. Not long after returning from deployment he was offered the chance to join Angel One and took it.
Michael Campbell is Angel One's check airman and runs the department's Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program.
Mike Campbell is Angel Flight's check airman with responsibility for its Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program. He provides instrument proficiency, recurrent training and route checkrides to each Angel One pilot every 6 months. Angel One's FOQA program utilizes Appareo Systems flight data recorder with the equipment mounted in the rear of each of the 2 aircraft.
It captures data that is customized to the department's desired flight profile, which is designed to provide a gentle ride for patients. For example, Campbell notes, ideal climb and descent rates are targeted at 850 ft per min or less for the unpressurized cabin of an S76, with 1750 fpm being the targeted maximum rate. Turn rates are similarly limited to 30° of bank or less.
Campbell studies the collected data and adjusts training programs with individual pilots to achieve the desired parameters. A former Army pilot who flew Bell Huey Cobras and Boeing AH64 Apaches, Campbell has been with Angel One since 2007.
Director of Maintenance Michael Dwyer has taken care of Angel One's 2 Sikorsky S76C+ helicopters since they were new. His department handles all work except overhauls and pitot static certification.
Michael Dwyer is director of maintenance. With a father in the Air Force and a grandfather who crop dusted in helicopters, Dwyer says, "I was born into aviation." Joining the Army in 1985, Dwyer became a Sikorsky Black Hawk mechanic.
In his final posting he was a platoon sergeant responsible for maintaining 10 aircraft for the Army's test pilot program. After discharge Dwyer became a field service rep for Sikorsky and McDonnell Douglas, troubleshooting Black Hawk and Apache helicopters for foreign military customers.
Respiratory Therapist Coordinator Ray Smith leads a team of 14 therapists, with responsibility for training and scheduling crews and maintaining the department's respiratory equipment.
In 2000 he joined Corporate Jets in their EMS operation at MCI (Intl, Kansas City MO) and was there when he heard about an opening at ACH, which was bringing its flight operations in-house. Today Dwyer leads a staff of 5 technicians, all but one of whom is a FlightSafety Intl Master Technician on the Sikorsky S76s.
They operate from an 11,700-sq ft hangar leased from Central Flying Service at LIT (Adams Field, Little Rock AR) where Angel One's aircraft are based. ACH's 2 preferred fixed-wing providers also use the hangar when their King Airs are in service for the hospital. Angel One aircraft are maintained to a custom Aircraft Approved Inspections Program (AAIP) which Dwyer says was drafted to closely parallel the manufacturer's requirements for the S76.
Administrative Assistant Pam Chumley plays a critical role in coordinating the multiple activities of the ACH flight department.
The airframes and engines are on Sikorsky's factory power-by-the-hour programs. All work on the airframes and engines with the exception of overhauls and pitot static certifications is done in-house. Dwyer says this helps to control both cost and downtime. "When I bring an aircraft in, I can tell management I have this to do, it will cost this much and it will take this long.
And they can count on that. If I send the aircraft to a Part 145 shop, I'm at their mercy." Dwyer maintains an extensive parts inventory and all the special tools necessary to support the S76. "I like to have everything on the shelf," he says. "That way when something breaks I can roll the aircraft in or go out to the site and get it fixed and we're back up and running, not sitting AOG on the ground waiting for parts." With more than 10,000 hrs on their airframes, Dwyer says Angel Flight's 2 helos are beginning to show their age. "We're starting to see unique failures rather than just repetitive failures."
ACH will replace current S76C+ models with new S76D helos
Tim Wunderlin is one of 15 communications specialists in the ACH flight dispatch center.
Well aware that the current S76C+ models are aging with warranty programs scheduled to expire next year, ACH has already initiated the process to replace them. More than a year ago the hospital developed a detailed Request for Proposal (RFP), leading to a thorough analysis and vetting process by a team of individuals representing multiple departments including finance, aviation operations and maintenance and the medical segment.
Communications Specialist Autumn Kimble at her station in the ACH flight dispatch center.
After an extensive comparison among the available midsize helicopters, ACH has placed an order for 2 new Sikorksy S76Ds, scheduled for delivery in August 2014. Angel One will be the 1st medical operator to receive the D-model. The new aircraft will be equipped with dual digital FADEC controls and a Thales avionics system featuring 4 large screen multifunction displays (MFDs), capable of allowing pilots to shoot RNAV GPS precision approaches. It is the same system currently being installed on new Airbus airliners.
Transport communications coordinator Teresa Campbell is responsible for operation of Angel One's dispatch center, which initiates and tracks the progress of all helicopter and ambulance missions.
From a maintenance standpoint, the new D-model aircraft will also bring some challenges. "From a distance the C+ and the D look the same," Dwyer says, "but inside they are very different. The D represents a big jump in technology." It has a pair of new Turbomeca engines, redesigned electrical system and many other improvements. Dwyer notes that the differences course offered by FSl, which he and all of his technicians will have attended before the new aircraft arrive, lasts 3 weeks.
Like their predecessors, both new helicopters and their engines will be on their respective OEM power-by-the-hour programs. Dwyer says the factory maintenance and warranty programs allow him to reliably forecast maintenance costs, to the considerable satisfaction of the hospital's finance department.
With new helicopters on the way and a strong organization staffed with great people, Angel One is well positioned to provide quality services to the residents of Arkansas for many years to come.
Mike Potts is an aviation consultant and freelance writer. He worked in corporate communications for Beech and Raytheon Aircraft between 1979 and 1997.