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Air Med J. 1997 Jul-Sep;16(3):70-2.

Helicopter dispatch: a time study.

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  • 1Regional Trauma Services, Grant Medical Center, Columbus, OH 43215, USA.



To quantitate request to liftoff (R/L) and dispatch to liftoff (D/L) times and reasons for delay in an active air medical transport program.


This was a prospective observational study blinded to crew and pilots. Data were collected by the communications department during a 4-week period on 197 consecutive missions.


The air medical helicopter program services 25,000 square miles with four BK 117 helicopter each staffed by nurse/paramedic crew. During the study period, R/L and D/L averaged 10.9 and 6.8 minutes, respectively. One hundred and twenty-two flights had an R/L of 10 minutes or less for an average R/L of 7.2 minutes and D/L of 5.9 minutes. Seventy-five flights had an R/L greater than 10 minutes, for which reasons included weather check--21; standby by requestor--27; all ships in flight--5; receiving facility delay--4; mechanical problems--4; original ship diverted--2; additional fuel needed--1; airport clearance--1; and no specific reason given--10.


Most variance occurred in R/L rather than D/L. Evaluating R/L time not only provides a better indication of program activity but also identifies most delays. It appears reasons for delay are limited, which should allow development of a concise plan to overcome them.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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