Behind The Scenes

In the Skies with Air Care

Apr. 5, 2018

Season 1: Episode 3 - Flight team brings swift care to patients.

UC Health Air Care Team

The victim was transported by helicopter to UC Medical Center.”

These words are familiar to anyone who watches or reads the news in Greater Cincinnati, and viewers immediately know that the person’s injuries are so serious the expert medical care only available at UC Health is needed.

But for the men and women behind those words, who fly the Air Care helicopter every day to provide life-saving care where it’s needed most, no flight experience is ever the same.

“Clear right and left and above,” the pilot says. “Pulling in power.”

The helicopter’s rotor blades rapidly pick up speed as pilot Bob Francis alerts the crew and expertly lifts the aircraft from the helipad on the roof of UC Medical Center. His head swivels left, right, then repeats before completing the hover checks required to move the aircraft up and forward. Bob adjusts the speaker near his mouth and calmly shares his coordinates and flight plan again with the UC Health Air Care Communications Center. His eyes dart rapidly, scanning the dozens of buttons, levers and gauges that help keep the on-board crew safe in flight.

Today, the crew has been called out to transport a patient from one area hospital to another.

In the back of the aircraft, Air Care nurse Rodney Wise, RN, sits next to flight physician Dr. Gerard Colmer IV, emergency medicine resident. Although they have already completed the check of equipment, Rodney checks again.


“Do we have a patient weight?” Bob asks through the headset embedded within the helmets, allowing the crew to communicate even through the deafening noise of the propellers and rushing wind.


“Not yet,” Rodney answers. “Can you message the hospital?”


“Affirmative,” says Bob, who then contacts the Communications Center for additional patient information. His tools allow him to speak to virtually anyone he needs — including the hospital where they are heading to pick up a patient that needs to be transferred to another nearby hospital.


“The weight is important,” Rodney explains, “because the total weight within the aircraft has to be within a specific range to operate safely.”


On the ground below, the tiny houses and cars come into focus as the aircraft approaches its destination. The bright red cross of the helipad beckons, and Bob carefully begins the descent.


“Eyes out,” Bob calls. Rodney and Dr. Colmer look out of their windows, each doing their part to ensure a safe landing — both for the crew in flight and for those on the ground. Most helicopter accidents occur during take-off or landing — which is why vigilance by all on board is crucial to maintaining the Air Care team’s perfect, accident-free record within their 34-year history at UC Medical Center.