Safe Landing Zone Training

Yesterday Bill and I participated in a training session with a life-flight crew here in Buffalo Bill State Park. Anyone that works here in the park could potentially find themselves in a position to be the point of contact person that might need to create a “safe landing zone” for the life-flight crew to land a helicopter, pick-up a patient, and take off again within seconds…

As part of our on-site training, we were instructed on how to create a safe landing zone for an incoming life-flight helicopter. We were told that even though a helicopter can, and will, land on top of a mountain, or cliff, if necessary.., if at all possible, they want us to try to find as flat of a surface as possible (making sure there are no ditches within the safe landing zone we are trying to establish). Because, if the helicopter lands with part of the landing feet in a ditch… of course, that could cause the helicopter to tip. Safety of the life-flight crew, and anyone assisting, as well as the patient, is always the number one concern.

We were told that if we have orange, yellow, or red cones, we are to place one cone across from each other, 60 ft apart. To establish this, we were told to pace off 25 paces, by walking the distance, between each cone. This will establish a circle big enough to land the life-flight helicopter safely. In addition, if we have a large orange, yellow, or red, triangle landing material (several of these will be supplied by the life-flight crew at after training so we have them throughout the park for emergencies use), we are to place that where we want the nose of the helicopter to be…

How do we know where we want the nose to be you might ask…? Well, we were instructed (if there is wind, and there is almost always wind here in Cody Wyoming), we are to stand with the wind at OUR backs, and place the triangle landing material at the place in the landing circle that is directly in front of us when the wind (if any) is at OUR backs.

The next thing we need to do is quickly look over the landing zone, and remove anything that could fly up and get into the helicopter blades… Things like tin cans, plastic bags, loose ropes, etc. All of these things, if swept up into the helicopter blades, will damage the blades, and put the helicopter out of commission, thus causing the life-saving rescue to be aborted on the spot…We also need to be mindful to stay away of power lines when establishing the safe landing zone..  The life-flight pilot told us that they have military grade night vision goggles, so if they have to land at night, and we don’t have any of the reflective cones, or triangle landing gear.. the best thing the military used was reflective glow sticks, but not green or blue, because that would interfere with the pilots instrument panel.

The life-flight crew we trained with consisted of the helicopter pilot, who obviously is in charge of the flight from take-off to landing, a flight nurse (my late brother, Tommy, was a flight nurse at one point in his military service, but I think he operated an ICU in an airplane instead of a helicopter…, so this training so touched my heart…), and a flight paramedic, that take care of the patient on site, in flight, and until they hand off the patient to the hospital staff..

Once the safe landing zone has been established, and cleared of anything that could fly up and damage the helicopter, we are to get all bystanders out of the safe landing zone, with the exception of the one point of contact person that will stand by the triangle landing material. When that person sees the approaching life-flight helicopter, they are to put both arms in the air over their head, and begin moving their arms back and forth indicating the direction the helicopter will land… The helicopter pilot told us that he/she will be looking for that one person that is making the appropriate hand/arm movements to direct his/her landing… They don’t want to see bystanders waving hi, or giving the thumbs-up gestures, or trying to take pictures… etc.,  as that is distractful when every second counts.

This is a picture of the life-flight crew landing, and coming over to direct our park staff on how to secure the patient for loading him/her into the life-flight helicopter…

Safe landing zone

Once the flight crew had the patient stabilized, and were satisfied that the patient was secure for transport…,they gave us step by step instructions on how to keep out heads low while transporting the patient into the life-flight helicopter… Special note… the patient was a real, live, woman, and had been strapped to the lift cage for a total of 3 hours during the training period… what a trooper she was..

Safe landing zone 2

When the patient had been securely placed into the life-flight helicopter, the flight nurse, and paramedic, joined the pilot in the helicopter, and they were ready to transport the patient to the nearest hospital…

Safe landing zone 3

If all goes well with the landing etc..,. The patient is assessed, and loaded into the life-flight helicopter within minutes…, which really brought home to me, how important it is to establish a safe landing zone, if at all possible, for the life-flight crew to land…

Safe landing zone 4

It was amazing to watch just how fast the life-flight helicopter crew landed, assessed the patient, guided us through how to help them ensure the patient was loaded safely into the life-flight helicopter…, And within minutes, they were up, up, and on their way to the nearest hospital, all while taking care of the patient in flight… What HERO’s they are!!

Safe landing zone 5

We also learned the difference between a “hot and cold” landing… A hot landing is when the helicopter lands with the blades still operating, and the patient is loaded with special precautions to “keep your heads low”, at all times, when loading the patient. We were told that when every second counts… this is the best approach if it is safe for the patient, crew, and anyone assisting in the rescue…

A cold landing is when the helicopter comes in, lands, and turns off the blades… Still, everyone involved in transporting the patient, needs to be well aware of the helicopter blades, because the wind, if strong enough, could still move the blades and cause severe damage…

This was one of the most amazing training sessions I ever participated in. I am just in awe at how well the flight crew works together to make these remote rescue’s happen within minutes, and as efficiently as possible .

When I asked Bill what he thought was the most interesting thing for him about our training session… he said “getting to talk to the pilot about how fast the helicopter goes (134 miles per hour), how they come in for a landing and take off again… ”

Amazing day for sure…

Stay Tuned!!


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ellen Kaufman
    Jun 03, 2016 @ 04:02:31

    What important and awesome things you are learning. You and Bill will be ready for anything that happens. Wonder what new lesson to learn next! Thanks for the information…


    • beyondcinderella
      Jun 03, 2016 @ 11:51:25

      Yes, Aunt Ellen, we have been learning a lot of amazing new things since we started the fun-filled retirement RV lifestyle. This is exactly what I wanted our retirement years to be… going about the country and seeing things I’ve never seen, and learning something new everyday. I for sure didn’t want to be that retirement couple that just sits around watching TV all the time and growing older, and older, without fully living our retirement years to the best of our abilities… xoxo


  2. gotham girl
    Jun 05, 2016 @ 19:45:14

    Just love reading all the details! WHO KNEW???? Keep up with the interesting stories!!! Love, your #1 fan! xoxoxo


    • beyondcinderella
      Jun 05, 2016 @ 20:39:21

      Oh yes, GG. I never even thought about anyone having to create a safe landing zone for a helicopter to land… never thought about all the things that might be lying around that could fly up and damage the helicopter blades etc. Love and hugs, and happy that you are happy to be back in “your city…” xoxo


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