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Lifeguard=no priority anymore?

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Hawker rider

Nov 26, 2001
I used to do an occasional Air-ambulance trip before but now I started doing it full time, we have had a bunch of flights the last few weeks, but i want your guys' opinion on something.

Afew times ATC actually gave us delay behind an airliner going into some airports, even when we had use of the lifeguard callsign. Sometimes they ask for us to give them a rate of descent that is so rediculous, it is not even funny! We fly Lear20's and with boxes in the back i really don't care about 5000 feet a minute, it's starting to get normal actually. But now we have (mostly) critical patients in the back and the other day we were advising ATc that we could give him2500'/min if he needed it, but not much more. After a hand over we were asked to increase at one point I was doing 4500'/min and that still wasn't enough for them. After advising him again that we were a lifeguard the controller didn't react but when i made clear that the patient couldn't handle 15 degrees nose down he told us to do the best we can do.

Only once when I had a patient in the back and he wasn't really bad, i decided to still file as a lifeguard, but in theremarks told them that we weren't time critical that I as a PIC can expect to follow in line.

Am I so wrong?? It seems that a lifeguard is not given any special consideration anymore by ATC And i don't want it to be my responsibility that anything will happen when they expect me to give them 45 degrees of bank in a turn, even when I advise them of our status.

This morning the tower even let 2 twin props depart in front of us, WHILE we were holding in position on the runway!

Please give me some views on this as I know that a lot of you guys are doing the same work as i do now.

Kind regards,

I have generally found that the only priority we get is direct destination and they move airplanes out of our altitude even if we are slower and being overtaken. Other than that I have also had the LC shoot guys ahead of us. I am not sure what the lifeguard status means to ATC.

I once requested a downwind departure rather than taxing down a 10000' runway and was denied. This alone would have saved 5 minutes
You would think there would be codes setup for the flight plan. I mean everyone that gets on a life flight a/c isn't about to croak. The ones that are they should make the president hold if necessary to get them where they are going. If its just a transfer that can't be done in an ambulance then I would think they would get lower priority than having George hold but would still be considered more important than the corporate dickhead who's stiffing all this employees.

I was talking to.....

A B200 pilot from louisville. He said there is sooooo much lifeguard traffic around louisville they have on occasion had to just go all out declare and emergency. Pretty sad really. This group specializes is airlift of premature babies.

I find that most of the time Life Guard gets you a little more direct routing and, in some places they will give priotiry. Also if you really need it and the patient is that sick just request priority and I have never seen someone turned down. Heard a SW guy get pissed bout it though... poor guy LOL

I think the big problem is some companys call Life Guard even when no patient is on the airplane.........
Lifeguard flights have always and will always be given "priority" as long as circumstances permit ATC to be able to grant this to the pilots. I can say that the Lifeguard flights that I have done I have never once had anything but the best of cooperation and priority given to me by ATC. (reference the AIM regarding this)

Also you should keep in mind whether or not it is a life OR death situation


3 5 0
celloman said:
. Heard a SW guy get pissed bout it though... poor guy LOL

As many favors I hear SWA guys get from ATC - dont feel bad. Just a couple of days ago here in the valley of the sun, about 15 departures lined up for 7L on the inner parallel taxiway in the first morning push, then ATC lets this one SWA guy go (non-lifeguard) all the way down on the ramp-side parallel then cut in line to launch at the departure end...

God forbid if he had to wait like the rest of the world. The captain I was jumping with about blew a bloodvessel :)
Yea, that happens sometimes; there is just so much "Lifeguard" traffic out there that ATC sometimes ends up treating it like normal traffic.

I know a lot of Op Specs state that you should file Lifeguard when you are going out to pick up a patient. I'm not going to argue that, since the idea is the same as an ambulance going to a scene of an accident, you don't know the condition of the patient. However, a call to your medical director might be warranted to figure out just how critical the patient is and if saving 5 minutes on the way over is worth clogging the "Lifeguard" system.

I find that if a patient is truly critical I just tell ATC "we're going to need Direct to the Numbers today" or something to that effect and ATC usually gets the hint.
"Lifeguard" is undoubtably misused. The FAA tried some years ago to create the second tier "Compassion" to cut down on the abuse for non-critical but still medical priority patients.

I wish the word would get out. "Lifeguard" is just too precious to be abused. It takes two seconds to figure out what you are carrying - rush transplant organs (yes), critical care patients (yes) - but if you are carrying Aunt Mabel to her weekly dialysis or god-forbid you are just "repositioning", please, please, please do not abuse "Lifeguard".

I volunteer my time to carry medical patients. I had a captain some time ago slip "Lifeguard" into our call-sign so that he could make his commute home. I was mortified. I was a newbie back then and couldn't communicate to this dolt how angry I was.

"Lifeguard" is critical and we need to bow to these flights like people pulling over for an ambulance to go by. "Compassion" is for less critical need, but where priority will be extended when possible.

The rules about calling yourself LIFEGUARD can be intereted many different ways. Many companies will tell their pilots to file that way on all legs. When the man who signs your checks tells you to do that, you really don't have much choice. You don't have to like it, you just have to do it.

Here in the US, patients are being transferred from one hospital to another. And the medical protocalls, except for some special situations, are that the patient be stabile for the transfer. That is not the say that the patient can't start going south on you.

Generally, I don't push the issue with ATC too much unless my patient is critical. Then I will push, via declaring Priority. With one exception, I have never had a problem getting priority, here in the US, Canada, Mexico and even Africa.

On the other hand, when I am transporting a heart, I start screaming bloody murder and priority, when I file my flight plan.

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