On a given day anywhere in the county a Life Flight helicopter can be seen or heard overhead.
Its frequency and proximity make it easy for some Montour County residents to take it for granted — to dismiss it until you or someone you know requires immediate life-saving care.
Life Flight is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2021. Since it first took flight July 1, 1981, in a single-engine Alouette helicopter, the program has served 75,000 critically ill or injured patients.
The fleet — Pennsylvania’s second-largest critical care transport operation — now features nine twin-engine aircraft at six bases and ground units for patients who need the high-level critical care team but not the urgency of a helicopter evacuation.
The teams average 3,600 transports every year — 70 percent moving patients between medical facilities, 30 percent emergencies.
Impressively, even as the operation has expanded there have only been two incidents involving the operation’s apparatus.
In 1996, an incident resulted in a crew member sustaining minor injuries. The one in 2013 caused no injuries.
“We are extremely proud of Geisinger Life Flight’s record through these past 40 years,” Geisinger spokesman Marc Stempka said.
Pilots and medics on the choppers deserve praise for being out on the front line providing immediate care to patients and getting them to their destination.
Whole other teams working behind the scenes in concert with the flight crew also deserve recognition.
Communication specialists not only coordinate takeoffs and landings — which might be on a highway or an athletic field — they relay detailed information clearly and concisely from air team to in-hospital doctor and back again.
A squad of mechanics deserves praise for keeping the aircraft in the kind of pristine condition that leads to a nearly flawless record over 40 years.
Each helicopter is inspected daily and intensive six- to eight-week inspection is done every 800 flight hours or three years.
Administrators, like Safety Manager Tim Ozimok, handle many roles, including making sure every team is working in harmony. He said good communication among all department and air ambulance employees and strict protocols are critical in keeping Life Flight crew members and critical care patients safe.
“There are so many disciplines we are talking with one another 24 hours a day,” he said.
While the average county resident might be able to tune out the whirring blades of a helicopter overhead, Life Flight’s success and stellar record prove the program’s teams take nothing about their jobs for granted.