Team's 'heart' keeps mission on track|
by Airman 1st Class Tom Brading
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs
1/24/2013 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. (AFNS) -- The term "air power" was put to the test after a late-night emergency medical flight used a closed section of the air field in order to save a life Jan. 15 here.
Due to ongoing air field construction, a section of the field is closed during a certain timeframe every day and is not scheduled to reopen until March. However, time was of the essence for a Learjet bound for Philadelphia with human heart onboard and just a few hours to be transferred into a patient whose life was in the balance.
The problem was the pilot was unaware of the closed air field.
Larry Smith, the 437th Operations Support Squadron airfield manager, received the call from tower control and decided to work with the team on the ground.
"Once the air field is closed, no flights are permitted," Smith said. "In this case, an exception was made because a human life was on the line. Through life and limb , anything is possible."
For Smith, air power was the key to the mission's success.
"Teamwork and flexibility is the key to air power," Smith said. "And, without the coordination and support of everyone involved, I doubt the mission would have been successful."
Smith credited the success of this mission to the civilian air traffic controllers for translating information from the pilot to construction crew members on the flightline. Smith also thanked the crew for coming together quickly to aid in coordination of a successful takeoff for the plane.
The Learjet needed 4,000 feet of runway space to take off, a significantly less amount than most planes need. The construction was on the opposite side of the air field, leaving the plane with sufficient amount of space needed take off.
"Luckily, there was enough room for the Learjet to take off," Smith said. "Letting the plane use the runway was a one-time thing, but a human life was at stake, so we did everything in our power to assist in getting the heart delivered on time and not only save the mission, but save a life."
The team achieved their goal of clearing the air field for takeoff. Within minutes, the pilot was able to fire up his engines and lift up toward the sky. Due to the joint teamwork and quick thinking of all involved, the pilot with a heart on board didn't skip a beat in accomplishing his mission.