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EMS/med-evac pilots - day in the life?

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Active member
Jul 5, 2002
Would like to hear from fixed wing EMS/med-evac pilots about that line of work...

(Helo guys welcome to chime in too, just not planning on going that route at this time)

* Pros/cons
* Hiring mins
* Typical day/schedule
* a/c type
* Pay range

I flew for a charter company that had an air ambulance certificate for about 2 years. The call could come at any time of day or night to go just about anywhere that was within range of the airplanes (Citation I and II). Generally, the trips were mostly flying with minimal ground time at the outstations, so I liked the ambulance operation (over other charters) since I was paid a daily rate (more $/hr). Pay was $150/day for SICs and $250/day for PICs, with meals and hotel/rental car covered (not usually needed on ambulance flights). The patients were primarily in stable condition, but could not tolerate ground transportation or travel without medical monitoring...I only really saw the guys in back having to work the patient hard a couple of times. I had around 1000 hr. total time and 100 hr. multi time when I got hired to do that job, but I was already working for the company as a CFI and they knew me. QOL was OK as I rarely spent a night away from home on the ambulance side, unless I was called in the middle of the night (that did happen from time to time), but I was on call. Good luck, Josh M.
BTW, there was some heavy lifting involved (patient loading/unloading), and the people being transported were sometimes not very happy (understandably). But generally, it was a good job and I would go back to that line of work if I needed another job and the opportunity presented itself.

Josh M.
Pros: it's a job, pays, variety, accomplishing something. Different things to do, from gunshots to a chainsaw to the face, once. I got to see the elation of a family knowing we were bringing them a heart for their father, to the dejection of walking into an intensive care unit once, and coming face to face with the family saying goodby to their father, husband, brother, and son...I was there to take back his organs, and they knew it. I had an administrative passenger/patient, not under treatment, experience a heart attack one night while riding in the right seat in the cockpit. Being an administrative transport, more like a charter than an ambulance flight, we had no nurse, and I had either the fortune or misfortune of flying night IFR, while dealing with him unconcsious and slumped over. Out of several years of ambulance flying, I never flew the same flight twice.

Cons: it's a job, but it pays, variety, doing something. We flew a patient once who had been a long haul truck driver. He'd been driving through a rural town and lost control of his vehicle. He began complaining of having the worst pain in his life, then became violent, got arrested, and we flew him out. Later that day we were introduced to some nasty medications that we were required to take as a result of having had contact with him...things that made us sweat orange ooze, made our mouths burn, and were generally unpleasant.

I think perhaps the worst flight I've ever made was ferrying an eight year old boy back to his family on the hopi reservation. He'd just drowned that evening, and he had to be buried by sunrise. Calm, quiet, no complications, but I had a hard time with that flight, and that hard time lasted for weeks.

Typical day schedule: sit,do something, sit, do something else, sit. Anything, everything, nothing. That's sort of the nature of emergency work...you may work, you may not work, you may do something, you may not do something. A lot of sitting and waiting. I always turned wrenches as well as flew, and that made for both shorter and longer days. Shorter if you're busy, longer when you're busy, if you know what I mean.

Aircraft type: you name it. A lot of different aircraft get used for air ambulance. I did patients and organs in Lears, patients in Senecas and single Cessna's in remote locations (dirt), and patients and organs in various king airs, remote locations and urban.

Pay range: my lowest aeromedical pay was some time ago, and that was twelve hundred a month plus room and board doing some very rural work, up to fifty grand doing a King Air 200...but that included working on it full time, too.

I always did other work in addition to the medical, as well as seasonal, etc.

It's just another flying job.

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