Night Time Air Ambulance Operations

The HIFR duty officer vehicle was the first official vehicle to use our new access road to the landing zone.

In early April HIFR got word that Air Ambulance were ceasing night operations to Hornby Island due to safety concerns. We immediately realized the significant negative effect that would have on the well being of our community and got to work. When representatives of Helijet and BC Ambulance flew in to talk a week later, we not only had a solid plan, but we had already mitigated some of their concerns.

Three significant changes were made in the way that we’ve conducted night time helicopter operations:

  • We changed the landing zone location, which required fixing up an old access road.

    Turboflare SOS are the preferred landing lights. These are the loaners. We will be purchasing our own for about $2600.
  • We purchased 22 portable landing lights and are investigating funding to offset the significant purchase price.
  • We reprogrammed a number of our radios to better communicate with the incoming helicopter.

On our May 18 fire practice we did a trial run where we set up our new landing zone system.

We use a 35′ rope to draw a circle defining where our landing lights will be placed.

Helijet was able to free up a helicopter just before midnight and flew up to check out our improvements. There are still a few tweaks to make the system better, but we’ve just received notice that night operations are back!

A good number of people helped make this happen:

  • Dan Hamilton had just done a full day of tree work when I called him to help remove a few trees from our access road. He didn’t hesitate to help and I met him 20 minutes later to start the work. Dan refused payment for that work.
  • Stani, our Depot Manager, let us dump several truck loads of slash from the clearing free of charge.
  • BC Ambulance and Helijet have been extremely responsive in helping us restore this important service. They gave us detailed guidelines, lent us landing zone lights, and have flown up here twice to help plan and test.
  • Chris Lefevre, who owns the land and built the airstrip, has been so incredibly generous with allowing us to not only use the airstrip, but has given us free reign to make changes to improve safety and access.
  • The firefighters of HIFR who gave up a weekend to clear the access road and haul away slash… and who also waited until past midnight on our practice night to get the pilot feedback… and who also will come out any day or night, no matter the time or weather, to set up the landing zone and shuttle medical crew and patient between the landing zone and the clinic.

13 thoughts on “Night Time Air Ambulance Operations”

  1. WOW – we’re so impressed with your commitment to Hornby Islanders’. Thanks to everyone who contributed to making this happen. Bravo!

  2. Choppers are dangerous. I worked for a couple of heli logging outfits. Last company I worked for piled the chopper up just after I left to go home to Hornby by snagging an old piece of cable left hanging in the bush. Our pads here always seemed inadequate. I am not surprised at their decision to not do night landings here.. I am glad you guys rose to the challenge.Choppers are great to have for night emergencies but it is way too easy to hit something or to come down hard.. The pilots are super skilled but why put them to the test. I remember one other time one of the smaller choppers hit a branch and took a piece about the size of a chocolate bar out of the rotor. Anyway I get windy and could go on but Maybe I should just say Thanks. I will feel better about my tribe of little Crowes .

  3. Dear HIFR,
    Thank you for ALL you do and in particular for keeping us informed.
    It is reassuring to know what you do and how you work.

  4. Hats off to everyone involved with restoring our lifeline.Huge gratitude to HIFD and to Dan and the Coop ,Chris Lefevre and all those caring folks behind the scenes.
    We will all sleep a little easier.

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