SILOAM — AirCare helicopter crews, known for operating in a variety of conditions, appeared to take in stride being greeted by a hillside filled with cheering Copeland Elementary students Tuesday afternoon.
The chopper which is headquartered in Elkin was manned by Pilot Matt Currin, Flight Paramedic Tim Atkins and Registered Nurse Barry Nelson.
According to spokesperson Donna Journey, the aircraft’s visit was a continuation of the school’s transportation community day combined with its annual fall fit and fun day. She credited the efforts of Jonathan Bledsoe of the Dobson Rescue Squad for helping set up the visit.
Fun day events included sack races, noodle tag, bean bag tossing and a balloon relay. Every class in the school participated in their own competitive areas at the baseball field with one boy and one girl winner in selected events advancing on to compete against each other for the top three places.
“We’re excited to provide real life experience for our students with this (helicopter) visit,” said Principal Sandra Scott. “By them being able to come here it helps our students understand better and not be afraid . We are hoping it piques their interest in what they may want to be in the future. It’s all tied into our field day and our healthy, active children program. It’s just the icing on the cake for our day.”
Nelson was greeted with a round of cheers and applause as he stood in front of students. He explained that the job of AirCare is to provide transportation for sick and injured persons.
“I’m a nurse, Tim is a paramedic and Matt gets us where we need to go. He’s the pilot,” said Nelson, who later bore the brunt of questions as each class got to circle the helicopter and ask questions from the crew. Nelson and Atkins were able to tell students the vehicle could travel in excess of 130 mph. Currin, who gained much of his flight time in the United States Marine Corps, told students the maximum weight the vehicle could handle was 5,350 pounds.
“One of the biggest things we do is get them (accident victims) there faster,” Nelson said. “We are trained and have the same equipment as a hospital except it’s in an aircraft.” When asked about the equipment vest he wore he explained it contained supplies he regularly needs so he could get to them quicker.
Atkins told students about how the helicopter has coolers on board so they can carry blood and joked that his equipment vest held more things than his crew mates could. He told students the fuel for the helicopter was similar to kerosene and that each vehicle carries only one patient.
First-grader Khiran Murphy said it was his first time seeing a helicopter up close. He said it surprised him how it landed and he said he can hear the sounds of the aircraft at night flying to help people. He said there is a line of nurses in his family but he isn’t sure he wants to do something medically related.
Kindergartner Eli Holyfield said he was impressed seeing how big the copter was when it was on the ground. He said he’d only seen one in the air before.
“What I really am interested in seeing is the back of the helicopter,” Holyfield said. “I’m not interested in being a pilot. I want to be a soldier. I wouldn’t like to ride in one of those. You’d just toss and turn.”
In a poignant moment after the airship landed, Emily Akers carried her 2-year old son Cadan up to meet the crew. She told Currin how the two had once been flown to Baptist Medical Hospital. Caden had been born prematurely and the smiling, if timid little boy, was proof getting him there faster made all the difference.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-719-1952.