Air Evac Exclusives

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Web Extras Issue: April 2016
Group Free
Pin It

Air Evac Extras

The pilots and paramedics featured in our April 2016 story on medical air evacuation (“Propelled to Rescue”) shared more great stories than we could fit into print. Here are a few:

Click on the image below to view slideshow


An Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter over Hoover Dam, 1980s (photo credit: Arizona DPS) A mountaintop evacuation in winter, northern Arizona, circa 1980 (photo credit: Dave Ruhlman) Air evac mission near Oak Creek Canyon, mid-to-late 1980s (photo credit: Dave Ruhlman) PHI Air Medical respiratory therapists Roy Kerns and John Cefaratt (photo credit: Mirelle Inglefield) Photographer Jessica Seeger shoots the PHI Air Medical team at Sky Harbor (photo credit: Niki D'Andrea) Pilot Pete Sadler with a Bell JetRanger 206B (photo credit: Pete Sadler) An early Air Evac Services (now PHI Air Medical) helicopter, circa late 1970s (photo credit: PHI Air Medical) Arizona DPS loading a patient into the helicopter, late 1970s (photo credit: Arizona DPS)


Air Evac Extras

The pilots and paramedics featured in our April 2016 story on medical air evacuation (“Propelled to Rescue”) shared more great stories than we could fit into print. Here are a few:

Pilot Jay Helm, on what inspired him to fly:

“My mom was a pilot with the Army Air Corps during World War II. She was a WASP… this is the WASP patch. I’ve carried it on my helmet bag for the military all these years. I always put a WASP patch on my helmet bag. But my mom had that background, and she flew before the war, and she flew following for years in the WASP. I think that probably put the thought in my mind. And then to be able to fly for the army – so I kind of got to follow in mom’s footsteps. At my graduation, she pinned my wings on me. My wife pinned on my officer rank, and then my mom pinned on my wings.” 

Pilot Dave Ruhlman, on the Phoenix floods in June, 1972:

“I'm in Phoenix, I'm supposed to pick up a Huey and bring it down to summer camp. But in the morning, I get a call that DPS wants to use one of the new helicopters from the National Guard, because all of the old ones are at summer camp and the brand new Huey was sitting at Papago. So they said, 'Instead of taking it to Douglas, come in and fly DPS officers around and check out the flooding and whatnot.' So I picked up [the sergeant] and his major – picked them up on Scottsdale Road, in fact, Scottsdale and Shea. That was the desert at that time. We landed in the shopping center there, such as it was. But that was it. Beyond that, Scottsdale Road was a dirt road, basically. So we flew around, and we ended up flying all day. Indian Bend Wash was flooding. There were several cars submerged in that, with people on the roof of their cars. We'd hover the Huey over, and the major and the sergeant would help pull them [up]. And they were utterly amazed.”

Paramedic Gregg Girard, on what Phoenix was like when he started in air evac in the 1970s:

“I can remember being up high, way back in the '70s, and looking at the city lights and I remember that we calculated it was about 35 miles from light to light – the furthest light west to the furthest light east – at night, and I understand now it's about 85 or 86 miles that you can see light to light.”

Pilot Pete Sadler, on good samaritan semi-truck drivers in the 1970s:

“Many times, especially in the middle of the night, you'd have an accident way out on Interstate 10 towards New Mexico, and you might have an emergency technician on board an ambulance, but of course they couldn't do anything but your most basic stuff – bandages and stuff. They can't start IVs, they can't do much deeper assessments of patient care. And many times, I can remember arriving out there, and the ambulance wasn't even there yet. Sometimes we didn't even have a patrolman there. And my medic would jump out – I'd land on the highway, on one side or the other – and my medic would jump out with his bag and run to the scene... back in those days, the semi drivers, they were good samaritans. They would stop, they would try to set up flares and warn people and help direct traffic. They were good guys... I would enlist them to help me out, and get traffic going and try to keep the scene clear, then I'd bring up stretchers or whatever. By then, we would have started IVs and tried to do an assessment. Maybe we'd have a severely broken leg we'd have to put a splint on. Sometimes we had to extricate them from the vehicle.”

Flight nurse Louise Sandoval, on the darndest things kids say:

“When we did a [public relations event] down in the Casa Grande area, we had the helicopter and we had a bunch of kids coming through it, and we were just trying to make conversation, so I tell the kid, ‘Have you ever flown in a helicopter before?’ And the kid says ‘Yeah, once when my mom was too drunk to drive us to the hospital.’ (laughs) It was like ‘Alrighty then, next!’” 

Respiratory therapist John Cefaratt, on the darndest things adults say:

“I had a guy one time sit up, and we were in a fixed wing, and he says, ‘What’s that guy doing out on the tail?’ So I had three options. One, ‘there’s nobody out there and you’re crazy.’ Two, ‘He’s out there fixing something and he’ll be done soon. Don’t worry about it.’ But then he might think we were gonna crash. Option three was, I told him, ‘There really isn’t anybody out there, but the windows look warped and it makes it look like there’s somebody. It’s freaked me out a few times as well, but there really isn’t anybody out there. You’re seeing what you’re seeing, it’s just not what you think you see.’ He was OK and he laid back down and everybody was happy.”