Into work about 7:30 to make sure that the kettle is on for the two paramedics I’m about to share the next 10 hours of my life with, start the day in a good frame of mind. Without their initial dose of caffeine they become like caged lions without food.
The helicopter is the first priority; a good check making sure all the levels are well topped up, safety and security are all in order, windows cleaned, and subject to the coffee being in order the paramedics check and load all the equipment they will require for the day ahead. The daily dose of paperwork follows: Met. Notams. Aircraft logbook, weight and balance for the day ahead calculated, and details from the previous shift faxed to various headquarters, then quick brief between all of us on the above, before declaring ourselves ready to ambulance control by 8:00 hrs – then it’s wait for the ‘999’ call to come our way.
Most of the year, subject to daylight, we work a 10 hr shift based at White Waltham Airfield near Maidenhead. It’s fair to say that we average 3-4 jobs per day, with the most being 13 in one 10-hour shift. The prime responsibility from the pilot’s point of view is to deliver medical aid as swiftly and safely as possible to any call deemed worthy of our response by the’999’ centre, maybe assist at the scene with a little fetching and carrying for the paramedics, planning our route to the hospital once any injuries have been assessed. En-route to the incident I could expect the assistance of the crew with navigation and invaluable amounts of local knowledge, post incident it’s just me and hopefully a trusty Global Positioning System on the helicopter.
It’s very easy when working a job, with copious amounts of adrenaline flowing, Heathrow Air Traffic Control to consider, and often a very sick patient on board; to forget the main reason I’m in this seat – to save lives. That’s when reality kicks in and everything comes into perspective. The people of the Thames Valley are very lucky to have such a fantastic asset, staffed by such capable, dedicated, paramedics and I’m very fortunate to be able to do the job I do.
Steve Farmer (Pilot)