Air Ambulance Safety and Patient Care: Part I

Earlier this week, a twin-engine Piper Navajo used for air ambulance service crashed, killing three people including the patient and his wife. The aircraft was transporting the patient and his wife from West Palm Beach, Fla. to Chicago and went down in a wooded area just five miles shy of the airport.

We are deeply saddened to hear of this tragedy and our hearts and thoughts go out to the victims’ loved ones. We wish a full and fast recovery to the accident’s two survivors.

Increasing Awareness to Maximize Safety

This air ambulance fatality is a devastating reminder to take a closer look at safety in air medical transport. We cannot change the outcome of Sunday’s disaster, but we can arm you with information that will help you to make the best and safest decision in choosing an air medical provider.

The fact is, arranging a medical flight is not something most people do every day; it’s probably not something most people will do in their lifetimes. But it is what we do every day, and we want to ensure that you understand the requirements for a safe, successful medical flight.

Here are some things you should expect in an air medical transport provider:

Well-maintained, medically-dedicated aircraft

Some operators own their aircraft; some have exclusive leases with reputable providers; and some “companies” are actually brokers who farm out flights to the cheapest provider so that they can make the most profit. These distinctions can affect safety and quality of service.

When providers operate their own aircraft or have exclusive operating agreements, they know exactly which aircraft patients are flying on, including condition, maintenance history and safety features. When brokers are choosing operators based on price, there is more likelihood that corners are being cut somewhere along the line. (In this industry, be aware that the best price may not always be the safest decision.)

Pose the following questions:

  • Do you own aircraft yourself or have exclusive use arrangements with specific providers?
  • What type of aircraft will my loved one be transported on?
  • What safety features does the aircraft offer?

Angel MedFlight has exclusive agreements in place for the operation of medically-configured Learjet 60s and 35s. One of our partners is literally downstairs – we know exactly who’s maintaining the jets, who’s flying them and what condition they’re in. The jets are outfitted with advanced safety equipment including GPS navigation, weather radar, and the latest in collision and terrain avoidance systems (TCAS/TCAS-II, TAWS, etc.).

Each fully customized medical jet is equipped with a stretcher, advanced life support equipment, medications, and the latest technology in medical devices and monitoring capability; they are the ICUs of the skies.

Lear 60 medical jet dedicated to patient transport

Highly-qualified commercial pilots with extensive flight experience

Two-pilot crew operating a medical jet

Who operates the aircraft is just as vital to safety as the aircraft itself. Ask if the air ambulance provider employs their pilots. Inquire into how many pilots will be operating the aircraft. Find out about the pilots’ credentials and experience.

At Angel MedFlight, aviation crew members have thousands of hours in the air including significant experience in Learjets. Two pilots are in the cockpit on every flight. All pilots have completed simulator training in the aircraft, and have fulfilled or exceeded all FAA requirements.

Experienced, compassionate medical crews prepared for any situation

It is not an uncommon air ambulance industry practice for medical flight crews to have full-time jobs and moonlight as flight nurses/paramedics. This poses a safety concern as medics/nurses often go straight from a hospital shift to the aircraft to care for patients, pushing the limits of mental and physical fatigue.

Ask the air medical transport company these questions:

  • Are your medical personnel full-time employees?
  • How many medical team members will be on the flight?
  • What are their licenses and certifications?
  • Are they flight-experienced?

Angel MedFlight critical care flight nurse and paramedic escort a patient to the medically-outfitted Lear 60

Every member of the Angel MedFlight medical crew is a full-time employee with years of experience in emergency medicine. Our air certified medical crews undergo an extensive orientation and training process prior to flying with patients. Additionally, all medical personnel participate in 100 hours of didactic and clinical education each year, including training on the Laerdal SimMan 3G patient simulator.

Both a critical care flight nurse and paramedic accompany the patient throughout the entire transfer. Together, these highly-competent, compassionate teams can handle virtually any incident that might occur during a transport. And they truly care about their patients; many of them keep in touch with patients and families long after the medical flight.

These are but a few of the criteria you should expect from a trustworthy air medical transportation provider. Stay tuned as we will be expanding on safety and patient care in upcoming posts. If you should have any questions at all about air medical transfers, call us any time of the day or night at 877.264.3570 or email info@angelmedflight.com.


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