Our Chief Training Captain, Jesse Konstam, shares his account of on-boarding our 7 new paramedic recruits.

January and February saw the start of the new HTC (HEMS Technical Crew Member) training programme. Our new recruits are required to enhance their clinical skills and also learn about the aviation side of being part of the aircrew.

The first three weeks were devoted to clinical development. Clinical Manager, Dave Dungay, and Operations Manager, Darren Goodwin, coordinated and delivered a sequence of lectures, demonstrations and simulations.

At the beginning of February the new recruits began a two-week aviation course at our Eaglescott Airbase to learn to operate to the DAAT methods. Along with Lead Specialist Paramedic Critical Care, Glenn Birtwisle, we compiled the topics, recruiting pilots to help to refine, produce and deliver the content. Topics ranged from Air Law and Meteorology, to aerodynamics and navigation. Apart from Air Law, every subject included some theory followed by a practical session. 

From theory to practice

The weather was good on the first day and all the safety briefings had been completed, so each student had a short familiarisation flight to show them the local area. This flight would also establish whether anyone was prone to travel sickness in the aircraft. Luckily, none were.

The second week's training involved navigation using various different scales of map then combining what each student had learned into a dummy mission, which also included using the ambulance radios. The final flight is what we call a Line Check, which is the final sign off before becoming an operational member of the team. The students all worked very hard and we now have 7 successful passes. The first live mission with a new HTC was flown on Feb 22nd. 

A simulating experience

We also welcome two new pilots, Craig Bisset and Pete Martin, to the crew too. As both are new to DAA, we need to carry out what is called an Operator's Proficiency Check (OPC). This has just been completed in the simulator at Babcock in Gloucestershire. It is an ideal opportunity to carry out some training and also simulate emergencies that would be hazardous in the aircraft. 

During the OPCs we managed to include one of our seasoned HEMS Technical Crew Members for the first time. It was a very useful exercise in crew co-operation and CRM. I think he also learned a lot. It was particularly interesting when we simulated pilot incapacitation, and Glenn was able to land the aircraft using the autopilot.

We're really fortunate to have recruited specialists in their fields to serve Devon's patients. The best patient care is always at the forefront of our training and in-house education. Last year it cost £7.5 million to keep Devon's Air Ambulances flying and this has only been possible thanks to the incredible support of our fundraisers, volunteers, corporate supporters, lottery players, charity shop customers and donors and those who remember us in their wills

New members of the crew give a thumbs-up to their training.

Being an air ambulance paramedic has a unique set of training to

contend with compared to being a road ambulance paramedic.