The ABCs of Air Medical Transport

The aviation and medical fields are notorious for their use of jargon, and when you combine the two, acronyms abound. To demystify the medical flight experience, here’s an A to Z explanation of the more common air medical transport terms:

ALS – Advanced Life Support
Emergency medical care for sustaining life, including defibrillation, airway management and medications.

A transport process that Angel MedFlight put in place to ensure continuity of patient care. The medical arrives at the sending facility, receives a full medical briefing and escorts the patient to the airport in a ground ambulance. Aboard the aircraft, the team monitors and cares for the patient. Once on the ground at the destination airport, the team accompanies the patient to the receiving facility and provides a full report to the medical team there.

CME – Commercial Medical Escort
For patients stable enough to fly commercially; a critical care flight nurse or paramedic accompanies a patient on a commercial airline flight with all necessary medical equipment.

Duty Time
The portion of the day when a crew member is on duty in any capacity. Enforcing duty times and rest periods ensure that pilots and medical crews are rested and in compliance with FAA regulations.

EMTALA – Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act
Also known as COBRA “anti-dumping” law, EMTALA requires that all patients who visit the Emergency Department receive an appropriate medical screening regardless of their ability to pay and must be stabilized if they are to be transferred to another facility.

FBO – Fixed Base Operator
The place on the airfield where general aviation aircraft park, refuel, and load and unload passengers. FBOs are located on the airport but not at the main airline terminal.

General Aviation
Flights other than military, scheduled airline and cargo flights. The majority of the world’s air traffic (medical flights included) falls into this category, and most of the world’s airports serve general aviation exclusively.

H&P – History & Physical
Document containing the patient’s medical history and physical examination notes.

ICU – Intensive Care Unit
The medical aircraft is configured as an airborne ICU with stretchers, specialized equipment and medications.

Jet aircraft
Aircraft propelled by jet engines to provide fast transportation. Angel MedFlight uses Lear 60 and 35 jets for their extended flight range, high cruise altitude and spacious cabin.

A measurement of airspeed; 1 knot = 1.151 mph. The Lear 60 cruises at around 420 knots (483 mph), approximately the same cruise speed as a Boeing 737.

Lifeport PLUS
Custom stretcher system for loading and unloading patients, featuring oxygen, suction and pressurized air.

Medical Director
A physician who is board-certified in emergency medicine and who oversees the medical care provided on all air medical transports.

Nurse/Case Manager Flight Coordinator
Experienced medical/case management professional at Angel MedFlight who coordinates patient transport.

One Touch Promise™
One Call. One Person. One Touch… on the ground and in the air. Angel MedFlight’s One Touch Promise™ assures you that every detail is handled. We will commit all of our resources to guide the process from start to finish. Our team of compassionate experts in the fields of medicine, aviation, insurance law, and case management are your hands, eyes, and ears. All of us, working on your behalf to ensure a successful mission. At Angel MedFlight we focus on every step of the process, so you can focus your attention on what really matters… your patient, your friend, your loved one.

Flight medical crews are trained in flight physiology, which is the effect of altitude on patients.

If you are researching air medical transport, be sure to inquire if the quote you receive includes all fees for an air ambulance transport; landing fees, ramp fees, medical equipment, international fees (when applicable) as well as ground transportation to and from the airport.

Receiving facility
The facility the patient is being transferred to.

Sending facility
The facility the patient is departing from.

TAWS – Terrain Awareness Warning System
TAWS alerts pilots to potentially hazardous proximity to ground or obstacle, while TCAS (Traffic Alert & Collision Avoidance System) is an enhanced safety system that advises of air traffic and gives pilots instructions (i.e., “Climb, climb”).

UTC – Coordinated Universal Time
The primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. Aviation uses UTC (informally known as Zulu Time) to avoid confusion about time zones and daylight saving time.

Vent – Ventilator
A machine that mechanically moves air into and out of a patient’s lungs for patients unable to breathe or breathing insufficiently. Vented patients cannot fly on commercial aircraft and are often transported by air ambulance.

Wheels Up
The moment during takeoff when the wheels lift off the ground and the aircraft is airborne.

The call sign for the letter “x” in the NATO phonetic alphabet, which is used in civil aviation (among other fields) to ensure clarity in radio or telephone transmissions (when there is static, the letters “b” and “d” can sound identical). NATO phonetic alphabet assigns code words to letters and numbers so that they are easily understood in radio and telephone communications.

Side-to-side movement of the nose of an aircraft, caused by the direction of the tail rudder.

ZOLL Propaq MD
A combination monitor-defibrillator specially designed for medical aviation use.

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