Residents of Boulder Park, an historic neighborhood east of downtown Colorado Springs, is a beautiful area of classic old homes, mature trees and a busy neighborhood park.
Below is a look at the neighborhood from FlashEarth.com:
For the most part, they peacefully coexist.
But, like any neighborhood, problems arise.
For months, the neighbors, the OTC and Memorial have been discussing the hospital’s growing use of its medical helicopter, seen below in a photo from its web site.
In the five years since Memorial leased its own helicopter, dubbed Memorial Star Transport, the average flights have jumped from one a day to eight a day. Learn more about Memorial Star Transport here.
Here’s a look at the chopper parked atop the hospital:
Neighbors say the noise and vibration is getting unbearable. They want the hospital to mitigate the noise by taking several steps. Ideally, they’d like the hospital to relocate the helipad from the roof of a seven-story building to a location off campus.
The helipad is visible with the white cross in the photos.
It’s about 90 feet above ground level. But neighbors say the wash from the rotors and the noise are too much. Here’s a slide from a report on noise created by Landrum & Brown, a Chicago consulting firm hired to study Memorial’s helicopter use. It shows where helicopter noise ranks against other sources:
Memorial agreed to spend $475,000 to install a 6,000 gallon fuel tank on the campus, which it hopes to have operational by November.
By pumping fuel to the roof, the hospital will cut out about 25 percent of the flights to and from the pad. Helicopters must be refueled after each flight, requiring a trip to the airport after each delivery.
But neighbors also want the hospital to spend $2 million or more on a “roll-off pad” to park the helicopter when it’s not in use. That would reduce upwards of 10 percent more flights made necessary when helicopters from other hospitals arrive to pick up or deposit patients.
Here’s a drawing of a proposed roll-off pad created by the aviation consultants:
The debate about Memorial’s helicopter operations comes amid a growing concern nationally about the safety of medical helicopters, which have become a $2.5 billion industry over the last 20 years, the Washington Post reports.
An excellent Washington Post investigation published in August reported that working in medical transport helicopters is the second most dangerous occupation after commercial fishing.
Federal officials estimate that more than 400,000 medical flights are made each year.
As the industry has grown, so have the number of fatal flights, federal safety records show. Last year was the deadliest for the profession, when 28 crew members and five patients died. In the 10 months from December 2007-October 2008, the death toll was 35.
In response to the deadly trend, the National Transportation Safety Board held four days of hearings in Febuary to study the trend and in September the agency called for stricter controls on emergency helicopter operators.
The agency has been pushing medical helicopter companies to beef up training for pilots, supply helicopters with night-vision equipment and require the installation of flight recorders. In its report, the board said insurance companies and Medicare pay more money to transport patients by air than on the ground, a situation that may have fueled the increase in medical flights.
Here’s a pilot’s-eye view of Memorial:
Some are questioning if there are too many medevac flights and unnecessary flight risks are being taken. The Baltimore Sun did an excellent piece last October in which it studied 26 fatal medevac crashes in the U.S. since 2003 and found many did not involve urgent, life-or-death flights.