I am the pilot in command
It is my aircraft and I am in charge. In the middle of the night when the tones sound off it is up to me to check the weather and decide whether or not we are going to go on the flight.
In the Helicopter Air Ambulance world we have a policy which is a simple concept; three to go, one to say no. The way I look at it is that I am a crew of three, a pilot, a flight nurse and a flight paramedic. If you do simple math that means that inside that aircraft we each have a 1/3 stake in the safety of that aircraft.
Each of our families wants us to make it home at the end of our shift. When we hear the tones we all meet at the computer and make an educated decision on whether or not to accept the flight. Ultimately it does come down to me to make the final decision, but it is my opinion that when we strap the aircraft on we all need to have the highest possible situational awareness. I am a single pilot, the crew can and will save me.
In our industry the majority of our mishaps are weather related.
This means that we find ourselves getting into bad weather and flying a perfectly good aircraft into the ground. Unfortunately, these mishaps often lead to a loss of life. I travel around the country teaching Decision Making and I will tell you that the human error that causes these mishaps did not start at the moment that we encountered the weather, it started when we accepted the flight.
We are one big team
I was fortunate enough to be a part of teaching the Advanced Course for NAACS (National Association of Air Medical Communication Specialist) this past week. During this two day course I learned a tremendous amount. Here are my main takeaways from a pilot’s perspective.
- Communication Specialist are like angels watching over us.
- When we fly the Comm Spec is an extended part of our crew. The information that we receive from them can make or break a mission.
- And when we take off in marginal weather they are truly concerned!
I named this article Four to Go, One to Say No for a reason.
If a Comm Spec is looking at the same weather information that I am looking at and something does not look right, feel right or smell right, should they not be allowed to speak up?
When the tones go off at 0300 in the morning and I have been asleep for three hours the Comm Spec has not. They are keeping vigil on my area. I would bet that they have a better perspective on the weather than I do right off the bat. I was reminded of a story where the aircrew accepted a flight in very poor weather. It was the middle of the night and the aircrew had looked at seven hour old weather without refreshing their computer. The aircraft unfortunately got into a bad situation and crashed. The Comm Spec was looking at the latest and greatest weather.
But I am the pilot in command, do not question me!
So I have had a few weather classes and I am IFR rated. I guess that makes me a meteorologist. I want to be questioned. I am human and fallible. Pilots are the ones that take perfectly good aircraft out and fly them into the ground. It is important that crews speak up and not allow that to happen. Four to go and one to say no means that I invite the Communication Specialist to say, “Hey Matt, please double check the weather one more time before you go out and put your crew in grave danger on my watch!”
To Join Convene First Responders visit firstresponder.convenecommunities.com and click the JOIN button at the top.
To become a contributor contact Matthew Currin at email@example.com