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Pete and his Chopper


Pete and his Chopper, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Two score and five years on.

The last time I was in an Ambulance?

Fun? You bet!
Probably the second most exiting thing I’ve ever done with my clothes on.

You see I’d blagged a shot in the Air Ambulance, and I got to ride with my pal Pete the Pilot, (as he is known in the small Highland town where we both live. Highland folk do “literal” in a big way). He needed to do some training type things, and asked if I would like a little trip.

Is the pontiff of the catholic persuasion?

Pete’s a neighbour and a pal, and the victim to whom K helped sing Happy Birthday at his recent 50th Birthday bash. He also knows that I like to fly (I fly a lot in my day job, but the smaller the aircraft the better, IMHO).

So I said yes.

And we buzzed around the Black Isle, I snapped photos of our house, my wife’s school, oil rigs, old forts just above our town, and then Pete did a blind instrument approach to Inverness Airport .
When I say blind I mean blind – he put on special glasses that only allowed him to see the instruments. Now I’ve drunk and partied with Pete for years – he is a seriously fun guy much given to practical jokes - so when he asked me to scan the skies for aircraft on a collision course with us, I though he was taking the piss. It very quickly became clear that he was quite serious, and I never knew that my neck was so supple as I scanned the skies franticly mentally rehearsing “Bandits 12 O Clock High”.

Luckily it was all clear, and I relaxed until he then cut the engine at 4,000 feet for a practise “autorotation”, ie an emergency landing where you have no engine.

Think sycamore seed falling from a tree.

Just a lot lot quicker.

My stomach hit my heart so fast………

I think he enjoyed that bit.

Now the Scottish Ambulance services fleet of air ambulances are as far away from family holiday vehicles as you are likely to get. Bright Yellow, fast, fully equipped for their job, and able to get anywhere in the Highlands in ninety mins or so. So a sick baby in Thurso these days is straight on the nearest chopper, and is down in Inverness in 30 mins max – including take off and landing.

I see them all from my office window, as it sit’s under the flight path for Raigmore Hospital. The Yellow Air Ambulance Squirrels, the RAF Sea Kings, the white Coast Guard mega choppers from Stornoway and Sumburgh, and the very occasional Navy Aircraft from the far South West of Scotland. All flying sick and injured people to the very best medical attention that a pretty good Hospital such as Raigmore can provide.

And when it can’t?

Well they just stick them back in the Chopper – or a fast fixed wing - and fly them to a big big city, with specialist wards. Head Trauma, chest injury, sick kids, you name it, Scotland’s got it. And the great thing is most people get better, and then go home. And that’s what is supposed to happen. Progress is a great thing.

And my pal Pete, and his crew, looking like a Star wars V wing pilot in his flight suit and helmet, oozing professionalism and cool, even though I know all about his weakness for wearing tights and tutu skirts at Cromarty’s fancy dress ceildh’s, sorts it for sick and hurt people.

At face value a long way from a Milkman driving a camper van.
Nahhh – it’s still all about trust. And I trust Pete – at least when he’s flying the chopper. But as Pete stresses he’s only the driver - the real folk, the important folk, the paramedics – they sit quietly in the back, listening to the pilots banter. At least until their skills are needed. Then the roles are reversed. A bad RTA, a lost climber with exposure, sick babies, heart attacks, strokes….

They save lives. Pete just gets them to Hospital just as quickly as he can.

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