U of M Survival Flight

The University of Michigan Survival Flight dropped in on us at the June 27th LCFA meeting in Hadley. U of M operates three twin engine Bell 430 helicopters. Each Chopper is capable of carrying 2 patients but prefers to only carry one for patient care reasons. The two-person medical crew ( plus pilot ), a full complement of life support equipment and avionics and communications equipment. The survival flight helicopters fly at an average speed of 172 miles per hour, but can reach speeds up to 200. Survival flight serves an air mile radius around Ann Arbor of approximately 200 nautical miles.


A federal Aviation reviewed landing zone is desirable at hospitals that use Survival Flight frequently. At other sites, including accident scenes, certain rules should be observed for safe operations. The requirements are:

  • Landing Zone (LZ) area must be obstacle free, this includes trees, debris, wires, signs, stumps, and trash.
  • The LZ should be 100′ X 100′ and as flat as possible.
  • The LZ should be marked with flares or lights. Keep lights shining downward to avoid blinding the pilot.
  • Keep the entire area clear of people and vehicles.
  • All persons should stay away from the aircraft until told to approach by the pilot or crew.


Never approach the aircraft from the rear


Transporting Justified


The decision to transport a person by air is frequently a difficult one. Although published guidelines exist, practices vary by region, as many factors may enter into the decision. Several scientific studies have demonstrated the benefits of air transport. Using a statistical tool that compares severely injured patients transferred by air to those transported by ground, patients transported by air had a 21% to 52% reduction in predicted mortality.


Trauma is essentially a disease of time, and everyone is familiar with the concept” The Golden Hour” The injured patient should be transported by the most experienced team available in the shortest period of time to a definitive care setting. Air medical transport is frequently the best means of accomplishing these goals.


U of M Survival flight landing in the parking lot at the Hadley Fire Hall.


From Ann Arbor to Hadley FD it took the crew 15 Minutes at 180 miles per hour.


The controls of the Bell 430


The crew also recommended that this aircraft would help in locating a drowning patient. In some cases the pilot or crew can see the person under the water from the air. Call before you dirty up the water with boat traffic if at all possible.