A LifeFlight helicopter experienced an unanticipated mechanical issue in a main rotor blade during a flight to Bangor on Saturday evening, according to a Nov. 17 news release from the organization.
At approximately 6:45 p.m., a LifeFlight pilot initiated emergency procedures and notified LifeFlight’s communication center of his intention to land immediately. Onboard the helicopter were three crew members and a patient. No one was injured and there was no damage to the aircraft, the release said.
Following protocol, the pilot and crew, who were all equipped with night vision goggles, identified a suitable area to use as a safe landing zone and set the aircraft down uneventfully. The clinical team maintained care of the patient while LifeFlight communications specialists made arrangements to dispatch the closest ambulance from Blue Hill to continue transport of the patient and LifeFlight team. The flight crew continued care for the patient and safely completed the transport to Northern Light EMMC in Bangor.
“While we work to never incur an emergency, we rely on our aircraft, safety systems, and pilot training, experience, and skills” said LifeFlight of Maine Executive Director Thomas Judge, in the release. “If a pilot identifies an unsafe condition, emergency procedures are immediately implemented to assure the safety of everyone aboard and, if necessary, the pilot will make a precautionary or emergency landing rather than continue the flight.”
There are many early warning systems on the aircraft LifeFlight operates, developed specifically to give the pilot time to land the helicopter without incident. All of the pilots and medical crew also complete recurrent safety training, which emphasizes how to make careful, thoughtful decisions in situations such as this, the release said.
A team from SevenBar Aviation, the company that operates LifeFlight’s aviation services and provides its pilots and mechanics, completed an initial evaluation on site and secured the aircraft. Further inspections will be completed over the next day and the damaged main rotor blade will be replaced and engineering causal analysis completed. Additionally, representatives from SevenBar are working with the manufacturer, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration to do supplementary inspections of the helicopter with data from the aircraft flight recorders.
“Safety is always first and foremost in LifeFlight’s operations,” said Judge. “People from across Maine, in their most vulnerable moments, entrust us with their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Every day we strive to be worthy of that trust.”
LifeFlight of Maine is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit air medical and critical care transport organization. LifeFlight brings lifesaving critical care staff and equipment directly to the patient by helicopter, airplane and ground ambulance. It also provides advanced emergency medical training to Maine’s hospitals, emergency medical services (EMS) and public safety agencies. Overseen by 25 physicians, LifeFlight cares for about 2,300 critically ill and injured patients each year. Since its inception in 1998, LifeFlight has transported more than 27,000 patients from every hospital and nearly all of Maine’s communities and islands. To learn more, visit www.lifeflightmaine.org or call 207-230-7092.