Medical Flight Industry Reacts to Deadly Crash - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Medical Flight Industry Reacts to Deadly Crash

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Jessica Daley


A medical helicopter crash near Mason City Wednesday night that killed all three crew members has shaken up those in the profession.

The calls don't stop just because of a tragic crash. Flight crews around Iowa are still in the air.

Two people said it's been a hard day for them and their colleagues to put the crash aside and keep their attention on their patients.

"It's a job with inherent risks that are different than other jobs but in many ways are no different than many other jobs," said Dan Cochran, the Flight Program Manager at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines.

Medical pilots and mechanics reduce those risks though through every day maintenance and inspection of the aircraft.

"Before a flight is accepted, before the aircraft is started, before the aircraft is lifted, during transit, before it lands, everything is about checklists," Cochran explained.

Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines partners with Air Methods Corporation to provide Mercy One helicopter services. Air Methods has a command center to review all flights.

"That's staffed by a pilot that looks at every flight request that goes out and says, ‘What are the inherent risks of this? Is this a good thing? Is this a bad thing? Do I need more information?'" Dennis Keough of Air Methods said.

Once in the air, the helicopters are monitored in the dispatch center based on their satellite coordinates.

While many people are involved in keeping crews safe, so is technology which is always getting better with equipment like night vision goggles.

But after a crash like the one Wednesday near Mason City, those in the industry are re–examining their techniques.

"It's already happening again," Cochran said. "Making sure that we're doing what we're supposed to be doing, that we're following procedures, that we're not finding something that we need to address."

Medical helicopter crashes are pretty rare. Des Moines has had their Mercy One program in place for nearly 30 years and has never had a crash. Last year, Mercy locations in Des Moines, Clarinda and Knoxville transported an average of three patients per day.

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