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11 December 2011

Huey Flying Adventure

**This blog was started primarily for the family to stay in touch with us while we live so far away. It's evolved into a bit more than that, but hubby has decided to start 'guest' posting every once in a while on his projects and work life, to keep everyone informed. So here's his first post!**

Not our Huey, but cool!
Hey everyone! First post by Jace, hopefully I’ll start doing some more of these, and maybe we can change the name of the blog? Anyway, I am writing this post because of a crazy event in the helicopter the other day. 

For background info, my job flying consists of many things, but one of our primary missions is to escort convoys around the missile complex here at Minot AFB, ND. These convoys are carrying nuclear warheads to or from a missile silo coming from or going to be repaired. We fly these escort missions carrying specially trained Security Forces personnel (cops) who carry a variety of specialty weapons and equipment. 

While flying one of these escort missions on Friday, 2 December one of the more senior cops riding in the back started to complain about feeling airsick, which he had never gotten before. So as usual when someone starts getting airsick, we start an impromptu airshow… Ha, just kidding, no we start to fly really tame. Then he starts to explain that he had been having pretty strong headaches for the past 10 days or so. Thinking he was dehydrated, he had been drinking lots of water, to no avail, and that he had also been having weird pains in his chest the previous few days. One of the other cops on the helicopter with us just happened to be an EMT, so he started to assess the sick guy (cop #1) based on the things he had divulged. At this point in the flight I had just taken the controls from the co-pilot because, as is customary, he had just flown the previous thirty minutes and so it was my turn to fly. As the Aircraft Commander (AC) on this particular flight it was my job to make decisions for the aircraft, regardless of whether I was on the controls or not, so when cop #1 started to hyperventilate, I suggested we find someplace to set down and let him get out of the helicopter and get some air. So the co-pilot found a missile site for us to go land at since we don’t have landing rights just anywhere unless it’s an emergency, which at this point we didn’t think it was. The site had had chosen was far in front of the convoy route so that we could allow the convoy to catch up to us as we sat down, because we still had to provide support for the mission. Enroute to the landing site cop #1 had started to calm down gain control of his breathing again while the co-pilot, flight engineer, and I (the aircrew) were wrapping up our pre-landing procedures. But about two minutes out from the landing site cop #1 started to hyperventilate again. I initially made a turn to take us back to base but the crew decided it would be better to get him on the ground and assess him since we were close. We executed the landing at the missile site, and got cop #1 out of the helicopter, but he had to be supported by two other cops, because he was unable to stand. Seeing this, the crew and I started talking about the possibility of taking him directly to the emergency room at Trinity hospital in Minot. When the EMT who was helping hold up cop #1 came back up on the intercom I asked him if he also thought we should go to the ER, and he agreed saying that cop #1 appeared at that point to be going in and out of consciousness.  

With the decision made to take the cop to the ER we got the cops in and took off with all speed, coordinating with the other helicopter flying the convoy to take over full support of the mission and with the base to coordinate our arrival at the hospital. What would normally be a 30 minute flight passed in about 17 minutes as I pushed the speed of the helicopter to beyond the maximum speed indicated on the charts for our current conditions, knowing that the charted “max speed” is actually based on the flight controls at a full deflection, and that by leaving the controls roughly neutral I could exceed that speed by a fair bit, and that the helicopter would give me a warning if I pushed it too far by shaking much more than normal. We sped into the airspace surrounding Minot International, without a hitch, she knew we were coming and had cleared the way for us (if anyone was there at all.) Trinity Hospital has its own helipad on top of the main building, but the winds where such that the pad was on the downwind side of a taller part of the building meaning there would be lots of turbulent swirling wind right over the pad. But I had done a few landings at the helipad on the hospital before, and the winds were almost always like that, so I was mentally prepared for it. With the help of the flight engineer and the co-pilot we made the landing to the pad, quick, safe, and a little scary. Cop #1 was taken on a stretcher and cop #2 followed and disappeared down the tunnel into the hospital while the aircrew celebrated the first medevac the 54th helicopter squad had accomplished in over 15 years. 

Cop #1 we later found out had several things going wrong for him that day; #1: he had been an avid consumer of high caffeine energy drinks until about 3 weeks prior to that flight when he had gone cold turkey on them, until that morning when he had had nothing for breakfast, but an energy drink. #2: the day before he had slipped and fell on the ice and smacked himself in the head with his rifle (see facepalm) and so had some issues with that. But in the end, the hospital never found anything they could definitely point to as the cause of his situation. The moral of the story is, if you are going to get unexplainable sick, do it on a helicopter, with an EMT on board!



Pamela McCown said...

Love, Love, Love your post - Jacer!! I was thinking for sure cop #1 was having a heart attack! Good job!

leslie said...