100 years of flight

Yesterday was my second flight shift since becoming an “upper level” (like I got smart overnight or something), and my first flight! I was so excited when the radio sounded it’s shrill tones just like on that 70s TV show…Rescue (?). “Flight physician on standby for an MVA in Western County.” Yippee . The senior resident gave me some last minute pointers about safety. ‘Approach the helicoper directly from the side. Don’t go out on the roof until you get the thumbs up. ‘ ‘What if I need to get to the other side of the helicopter?’ I asked. ‘Put one hand on the nose of the chopper so that pilot can see it at all times and walk around to the other side. Don’t go around the back where the tail rotors are, or it will ruin everyone’s day.’

I rushed up to the roof where the helicopter picks us up, I had my helmet on, gloves and mask stuffed in my flight suit, stethscope around my neck. I arrived before the chopper even lifted off from the hanger. The chopper approached the roof, landed softly and the pilot gaves me the thumbs up signal. I open the door, and am just about blown over from the downdraft of air created by the chopper blades. Leaning forward and grabbing my stethscope so it doesn’t fall off, I run toward the chopper, ducking low and jump in the door. The second my 4 point restraint snaps shut, the medic radios “OK, where good to go,” and the pilot takes off. Safely up to airspeed, the pilot gets on the radio. “Hey Doc, is this your first flight with us?”. “Sort of,” I mumble, embarrased that he’s noticed my inexperience already. “Well, you don’t have to run towards the helicopter. We’re not in that big of a hurry. Just walk to the helicopter…someday you’re going to trip and make a big mess.”

I was certainly making a good first impression. As we flew over several ridges en route to the waiting trama, the clouds got lower and lower, the trees below us closer and closer as he tried to stay out of the cloud cover. For a few seconds, there was bright, bright sunlight, then suddenly it was gloomy. Wisps of clouds rushed past the helicopter as we traveled 100 mph over the forest. I looked out my window to the right…pastoral farms below. Then I looked out the window to the left. Trees immediately below us. winds buffeting the helicoper. The doppler effect creating fierce beating of the rotor blades interspersed with silence. Just as I felt my stomach crawl up to my throat in disbelief that the pilot would try to crest that next ridge, he veered 180 degrees to our right and radio’d back to the hospital, “Life Flight aborting mission, returning to base.”

So still no on scene traumas for me and the helicopter. Next time I hope to make a better impression on the pilot!

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