If there’s one word to describe Ministry’s Spirit Medical Transportation Service (MTS) Eurocopter 145, it’s “safe.”
From night vision goggles to a dual hydraulic system to state-of-the-art avionics package, everything is focused on “safety.”
“Safety is what it’s all about,” said Nils Strickland, pilot with Spirit MTS. “The advanced equipment and technology on this EC 145 aircraft doesn’t mean that we make flights we normally wouldn’t make, but they enhance the level of safety for the flights we do make.”
Other technologies include multifunction displays for terrain awareness warning and traffic collision avoidance systems, satellite weather information, navigation charts and real-time radar.
The EC145, in use now for nearly a year, is powered by two Turbomeca ARRIEL engines and is especially designed for emergency medical service missions. It is single pilot Instrument Flight Rated and has a cruise speed of 133 kts (about 153 miles per hour).
Most recently, the crew has trained to become proficient in using night vision goggles, in part to aid in establishing landing zones.
“The goggles give us a whole new perspective of what’s going on outside of the aircraft at night,” said Strickland. “They magnify the light that is already out there and give us a lot of detail of any hazards, such as power poles, trees or road signs. They are especially helpful for scene calls.”
One example that came to the mind of Greg Rosenthal, Spirit paramedic, was a call in early December in the Thorp area. A hunter had fallen from a tree stand, and had been suspended in a harness 25 feet up for most of the day, in subfreezing temperatures. He suffered from severe hypothermia.
“The Thorp Fire Department did an excellent job setting up the landing zone, on a rural county road,” Rosenthal said. “But it was a hard landing zone, because there were trees on both sides of the road, and power lines on one side. With the goggles on, we had increased ability to see the obstacles and were able to land in a significantly tight area.”
The landing and liftoff went smoothly and the patient was safely transported to Ministry Saint Joseph’s Trauma Center. He was able to be discharged the next day.
The goggles also help in identifying possible severe weather.
“When flying at night, where there are no surface lights, the first thing that disappears is the horizon,” said Strickland. “With the goggles, we can see the ground, the horizon and the cloud base. We can see where the cloud ceiling is, and if there are rain or snow showers, so we can avoid them.”
“The EC145 is among the safest and reliable helicopter out there. It has become the aircraft of choice for emergency medical services because of its maximum flexibility and configuration,” said Monty Gallegos, Director of Spirit MT. “We are confident that it will continue to allow us to provide the safest, highest quality medical transport to meet the needs of our growing service area.”