Safety a priority for CareFlight crews

More than 120 employees involved in program at Miami Valley.

Safety measures for CareFlight helicopters at Miami Valley Hospital include daily inspections, simulation training for pilots and up to 100 sessions each year with emergency personnel on how to effectively land an aircraft — whether it’s on a highway or in a field.

The deadly news helicopter crash in Seattle on Tuesday put helicopter safety measures back in the national consciousness. The KOMO-TV chopper went down on a city street, not far from the Space Needle, killing two people aboard and seriously injuring a driver. The crash remains under investigation.

In the Miami Valley, the CareFlight Air and Mobile Services team covers a radius of 150 miles from Miami Valley Hospital. The program boasts four helicopters and more than 120 employees, including 13 pilots and seven full-time mechanics. Pilots and mechanics are contracted, and the number of daily runs vary. It could be three one day, and then 13 the next.

“We are a safe program,” said Beth Calcidise, program manager. “Our goal is to get home safely every single day.”

Nurses are trained in emergency shutdown procedures, and weather is monitored constantly. Among other measures, pilots undergo simulator training ever year. All pilots have military experience, and they must have logged 2,000 hours of flying time in order to work for CareFlight.

CareFlight holds safety sessions each year — usually between 60 and 100 — in concert with EMS, fire and police agencies to teach them how to effectively land an aircraft on scene.

“We also have a process that’s ‘three to go and one to say no,’” said Calcidise. “If we’re out there and one person is uncomfortable with what’s going on, they can say (so). And we’ll turn around.”

Post-accident incident plans are run two or three times a year. They involve communications specialists, pilots, nurses and emergency crews.

After the crash in Seattle, one Dayton woman said she looks at professions that use equipment like this differently.

“I think a lot of people around here … we’re very used to things flying over and not really considering it much,” said Tabatha Muntzinger, “and how dangerous that is.”