New 10th MDG landing zone speeds up transfer of emergency patients

  • Published
  • By Ray Bowden
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Emergency patient transport accelerated at the U.S. Air Force Academy with the unveiling of a landing zone for Flight for Life helicopters just outside the 10th Medical Group on Pinon Drive. April 14.

Previously, these helicopters landed more than a mile from the clinic and the patient-transfer process required some juggling.

“The designated landing zone was one-and-a-half miles down the road in the middle of a grassy field,” said Jeremy Abbott, a 10th MDG safety and occupational health specialist. “The ambulance would meet the flight crew at that landing zone, drive the crew to the medical clinic, load the patient in the ambulance, drive the patient and flight crew back to the landing zone, load the patient on the helicopter and finally lift off.”

The new landing zone shaves precious time off the patient transfer process, Abbott said.

“It saves at least 23 minutes which could be critical in a life or death situation,” he said.

Doctor (Col.) Greg Malone, 10th Surgical Operations Squadron Commander, said the landing site is an “island in the sky” due to its location on a ridge overlooking Pine Valley.

“Having this capability is a safety net for patients in need of surgical care or fast transport from our clinic to a hospital,” Malone said. “Reducing the distance fills a safety gap as the Academy exists in a rapidly changing weather and patient care environment.”

Abbott said the idea for a new landing zone had been in the works for two years but hampered by the estimated $800,000 an actual landing pad would cost. It turned out the plot of land behind the clinic would work perfectly, once civil engineers at the base completed an inspection of the area. The only physical labor, he said, was installing the windsock.

“At this point, there is nothing else that needs to be done to make landings or takeoffs regular,” Abbott said.