New paramedic recruits are required to enhance their clinical skills and also learn about the aviation side of being part of the aircrew before joining the front line as Helicopter Emergency Medical Service Technical Crew Members (HEMSTC).

The first three weeks are devoted to clinical development where clinical and operations managers coordinate and deliver a sequence of lectures, demonstrations and simulations for the ‘students’.

Following this, the new recruits began a two-week aviation course, usually at our Eaglescott Airbase to learn to operate to DAA methods. Using the expertise of experienced HEMSTC staff and under the watchful eye of the Chief Training Captain, we compile the necessary aviation-based topics, and ‘recruit’ pilots to help refine, produce and deliver the content. Topics range from Air Law and Meteorology, to aerodynamics and navigation. Apart from Air Law, every subject includes some theory followed by a practical session. 

From theory to practice

Assuming the weather is good and all safety briefings had been completed, each student has a short familiarisation flight to show them the local area. This flight would also establish whether anyone was prone to air sickness in the aircraft, fortunately not many are!

The second week involves navigation using various different scales of map, then combining what each student had learned into a dummy mission, which also includes 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.

A simulating experience

New pilots to DAA undergo a slightly different experience as we need to carry out what is called an Operator's Proficiency Check or OPC followed by operational Line Checks depending upon previous experience of HEMS flying and the local operating area. The OPC is usually carried out on a simulator in Gloucestershire, but in future will be undertaken initially at the Airbus factory facility in Donauwörth Germany where our new helicopter is being built. 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 seek to include one of our HEMSTC. It is a very useful exercise in crew co-operation and training for what we hope would never be an emergency scenario in flight. It is particularly interesting when we simulate pilot incapacitation and the HEMSTC attempt to land the aircraft using the autopilot!

The line check is carried out on a live aircraft, where possible on an operational mission with a full crew, monitored by a Training Captain.

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. It is 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 that we are able to keep flying.

Find out more about how you can get on board

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.