The University of Michigan Health System is phasing in three new helicopters to their Survival Flight fleet this week.
The new helicopters look like slender U of M football helmets. They can travel faster, farther and more quietly than the old helicopters, and carry additional equipment and fuel.
The new helicopters will replace their 14-year-old counterparts, the Bell 430. Flight nurses expressed enthusiasm for the new aircrafts, but they were also sad to see their old helicopters go.
Together, the Bell 430 helicopters covered the distance from the earth to the moon and back on rescue flights.
Flight Nurse Morgan Cornell began working with the Survival Flight crew this year. He is also trained as a EMS paramedic and rode in ambulances before moving on to helicopters.
"The flight is a lot smoother than in the back of an ambulance. You know, there’s no potholes up there at 2,000 feet," he said.
Cornell says the most rewarding part of his job is seeing recovered patients he helped transport, who were once critically ill. He says each Survival Flight patient gets a set of wings once they’re safe on land.
Pilot Tom Sherony says the new helicopters will let the Survival Flight team offer their passengers better care by getting to the scene faster. The helicopter he flew today had its first run on Friday.
"Yesterday, we did a couple of short flights, and you find that about the time you get the aircraft up to full speed, you have to slow it down again," he said. "So that’ll be good on longer flights."
Sherony says although his job is exciting, the romance wears off with the repetition of rescue flights each day. But he says seeing a patient that he helped transport walking around healthy is always rewarding.
Here's what it looks like to take off from the U of M Helipad in one of the new Eurocopters (try starting 40 seconds into it):
-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom