Angel MedFlight Air Ambulance Pilots Prepare for Winter Weather


With the highest level of safety as our top priority, the impending winter weather prompted discussion about how our pilots continually prepare for and adjust to winter flying conditions. Although the weather here at Angel MedFlight’s Scottsdale, Ariz., corporate headquarters is perfect almost every day, our Learjets transport patients to and from diverse geographic locations and climates. Last week we transported patients from New York, Boston, Cleveland and Iowa where news reports were showing snowfall and below freezing temperatures.

All of our pilots train twice a year in a flight simulator. Training in this “real time” environment allows pilots the opportunity to trouble shoot problems seen in the air. The pilots can experience different ways to handle singular flight scenarios that may not be common and therefore are best practiced proactively. For instance, they train specifically on hazardous training scenarios including ice covered runways, high winds and diminished breaking.

Brandon Kearns, pilot and Director of Operations for Aviation West Charters dba. Angel MedFlight, discussed the level of expertise and experience pilots must have before beginning a career with us. Because Angel MedFlight transports patients all over the United States and internationally, our pilots don’t have a “routine” flight like many commercial pilots have. Instead, they are required to fly to and from a number of different locations based on patient needs.  Kearns discussed how, as winter weather approaches, one of the first things his pilots do is to read their winter manuals looking for any updates, new information or improved practices. In addition to reviewing industry flight manuals, pilots must also review company policy specific to winter flying.  Not only are pilots hitting the books in preparation for winter, but a paradigm shift takes place in the way that pilots think about flight planning. Pilots must now look for different weather patterns, low pressure systems, changes in jet-stream flow, lake effects particularly around the Great Lakes Region, frost and dipping nighttime lows.  Pilots know that temperatures, wind and moisture in a number of different combinations can create tricky weather conditions while in the air. Flight planning isn’t just a pre-flight process; pilots continue to monitor, assess and adjust throughout the duration of the flight based on changing conditions.

While winter weather-related accidents make up a small fraction of all accidents (NTSB data), Angel MedFlight pilots have a distinct advantage because they are required to be at the ready and prepared for every kind of flight regardless of geography, terrain, duration and climate. They prepare for more frequent flights into and out of winter weather by studying, evaluating, adjusting and applying that knowledge to each set of flight circumstances. Every day, every flight is different than the last. Our pilots are passionate about ensuring each patient arrives comfortably, under expert care, with safety as the highest priority to the planned destination. With tens of thousands of flight hours behind them, they continue to deliver excellence in medical flight care.

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