Frequently Asked Questions

These are the most commonly asked questions about Flight For Life

Flight For Life History Back to Top

What is the Flight For Life Mission Statement?

undefinedFlight For Life will provide safe, high quality, customer-oriented and efficient medical transportation, with a commitment to education.

How long has the Flight For Life Transport System been around?

  • The Waukesha base started in January of 1984.
  • The McHenry base started in May of 1987.
  • The Fond du Lac base started in August of 2008.

How many total flights has Flight For Life done?

Over 37,000

When and why was the McHenry site started?

It was started in May, 1987 due to an increase in patient transports coming to the Milwaukee area from the northern Illinois region. It was based in McHenry with the help of interested parties at Centegra Hospital - McHenry.

What is the safety record for Waukesha? for McHenry? for Fond du Lac?

We have over 37,000 accident free missions within the system. There has never been an accident since the program inception at any site.

Who is responsible for establishment of the transport system?

Barbara Hess, RN, Flight For Life’s first program director and Dr. Joseph Darin, the chair of the department of Emergency Medicine at Milwaukee County Medical Complex and Jim Ryan, President of the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center were very instrumental in the transport system’s development and initiation.

Is the program for profit or not for profit?

Flight For Life is a not for profit organization. The IRS code specifies it exempt from income taxes including tax on purchases. Any and all revenue generated must be used to promote the organization’s exempt function. Activities of the organization may not be used for private gain.

How many people are employed in the organization?

About 90.

What is Flight For Life's service area?

A 225 mile radius of each Flight For Life base.

What is the farthest the helicopter has traveled?

Our aircraft have traveled as far north as the Upper Peninsula in Michigan and as far south as Central Illinois.

Does Flight For Life respond to scenes or just inter-hospital flights?

All aircraft have the capability of responding directly to accident scenes as well as performing inter-hospital flights.

How does Flight For Life recognize others in pre-hospital care?

A "Scene Call of the Year Award" is presented annually to a full-time as well as a combination department from each base.

How is Quality Assurance monitored?

A QA/QI committee meets monthly at each site. Each flight is reviewed by peers for appropriateness and adherence to the organization’s standard of care. Some key areas of operation are evaluated for only some months of the year (i.e. response times, flight following, etc).

Ninety percent compliance to standards is the minimum goal set. Those charts that fall out or those areas that do not meet the compliance percentage are reviewed by the committee which includes the medical director and chief flight nurse. Appropriate action is initiated and monitored for improvement.

Emergency Services Facts Back to Top

How are flights determined?

On call, first come first served. Caller requests a helicopter to a scene or hospital for transport. If the helicopter is en route to a hospital, with approval from the referring hospital, it may be diverted to a scene. A patient may be transported to and from any hospital as long as the final destination is an equal or higher level of care.

Who can call for the helicopter?

Fire, EMS, law enforcement, hospitals, and any other personnel as determined by local and regional protocols can call for a helicopter.

Explain call in procedure, prep procedure (standby), aircraft and crew prep time.

Requesting agency (EMS, law enforcement, fire, hospital) calls into Flight For Life's Communication Center.

Calls are received as either standby (delayed liftoff) or go (immediate liftoff).

The crew prepares during stand time by checking weather, finding scene or hospital on a map, obtaining necessary supplies, equipment, preparing specialty teams or necessary patient information.

Who is on the aircraft during a flight?

Standard flight crew is flight nurse and flight paramedic, but may also include specialty teams (Children's, Transplant or a perfusionist), a Clinical Observation Participant, or Waukesha or Fond du Lac base may include a flight physician

What are Clinical Observation Participants (COPS)?

A person currently working as an: EMT-B, EMT-I, Paramedic, First Responder, Firefighter, Law Enforcement Officer, 911 Dispatcher, or a HUC/Tech, LPN, RN or Physician working in an ED, ICU, Cath Lab, or Pediatric Unit. The experience is observational only.

How does Flight For Life interact with area rescue squads? Private ambulances? Referring and receiving hospitals?

Rescue: Flight For Life provides safety inservices as well as other requested continuing education including run/case reviews. Flight For Life responds to the requests of EMS/fire/law enforcement by responding directly to the scene of accidents at specified landing zones. Follow up calls, and transport surveys are completed after each transport.

Private Ambulances: Flight For Life provides safety inservices as well as other requested continuing education including run/case reviews. The private ambulances provide ground transportation for the flight crew in the event the helicopter is not able to fly due to weather or extended maintenance issues.

Hospitals: Flight For Life provides safety inservices as well as other requested continuing education including case reviews. A rapport often develops between some hospitals and flight crews due to frequent transports into or out of a facility. Follow up calls and transport surveys are completed after each transport.

What is a scene call? What is involved and how is it different from hospital transports?

The helicopter responds directly to an accident scene, landing on a highway, parking lot or field. It requires more coordination of ground personnel as well as high alert of flight crew to fly into an area that may not normally have aircraft landings. Crew must be constantly observing for obstacles while inbound (wires, trees, signs, blowing debris, other aircraft, etc). Traffic around the aircraft must be controlled by ground security (fire/EMS/law enforcement). Hospital transports involve landing at a pre-approved helipad right at the hospital or very close by.

What is CAMTS certification? How is it earned? When was it earned?

The Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS) is an independent accrediting organization that is called voluntarily by the air medical program requesting accreditation. A team of surveyors reviews all flight operations (both on paper and by site visit) for compliance to a set of standards that are above the minimum standard operating standards. Certification implies a high level of quality in the organization. The first certification was earned by Flight For Life in 1996 and again reaccredited in 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2017.

Does the age of the patient require a different crew? (Peds, Adults)

Specialty team transports with a pediatric intensivist (resident), pediatric nurse practitioner, pediatric transport nurse, and/or respiratory therapist may be sent on any pediatric flight depending on patient age, diagnosis, and condition. In general, the full complement of pediatric team members are sent for pediatric medical patients and neonates. The team may vary for trauma patients.

Aircraft, Crew and Equipment Back to Top

What types of aircraft are flown?

Two EC145 and two BK117 (one of which is a dedicated backup) twin engine helicopters with an average cruising speed of 140-150 mph

How much fuel does the aircraft carry?

Maximum capacity is 188 gallons of Jet A fuel.

Are the aircraft owned or leased?


Who is responsible for maintenance?

Two full time mechanics at each site are dedicated to aircraft maintenance 365 days per year with 24 hour availability. In addition, the Program Maintenance Manager oversees maintenance at all three sites. All mechanics are factory certified.

How often is maintenance performed?

Daily checks are made with preventative maintenance scheduled when due. Unscheduled maintenance is completed as efficiently as possible to minimize out-of-service time. All components are inspected, overhauled, or replaced based on specified time limits.

What is the background for crew members?

RNs: Minimum three current years ED or ICU experience. Certified in BLS, ACLS, PALS, NRP, ATLS audit or TNATC. Also certified as one of: CFRN, CCRN, RNC or CTRN.

Paramedics: Minimum three years active EMS experience as a paramedic. Certified in BLS, ACLS, PALS, NRP, ATLS audit or TNATC. Also certified as one of: FP-C or CCP-C.

MDs: Waukesha base only, when scheduled, on selected shifts. Second or third year residents currently participating in the Emergency Medicine Residency Program, Medical College of Wisconsin.

Pilots: Minimum of 2,000 hours rotor wing flying. Commercial and instrument certified.

Why is the helicopter a necessary tool in providing emergency medical care?

The time of transport by ground to the most appropriate facility poses a threat to survival and optimal patient outcome. The helicopter may provide rapid and timely transport to the most appropriate facility while reducing out-of-hospital time for the patient. Advanced medical procedures similar to those performed in an Emergency Department are performed in the aircraft by the medical crew.

How does helicopter transfer differ from that of an ambulance?

  • Usually less room (work area) inside
  • Greater weight restrictions
  • Helicopter must have a larger area to land in (as opposed to driving into)
  • More rapid transport
  • Helicopter carries more advanced equipment and a wider array of medications including blood
  • Helicopter can bring the specialty of higher level of care to the patient (physician, specially trained nurses and paramedics, specialty transport teams) where an ambulance brings the patient to the specialty

Is any specialty equipment or personnel used for different cases?

An isolette, intra-aortic balloon pump, ventricular assist device, or external temporary pacemaker is available upon request for any flight. Specialty personnel include: pediatric transport team, cardiovascular personnel (perfusionist), transplant team, or specialty physicians.

How often does the crew train? What aspects?

Ongoing education includes:

  • Monthly educational topics/case reviews
  • Monthly skill competencies
  • Semi-annual safety training every six months, regarding the helicopter operation and emergency procedures
  • Annual training on altitude physiology, stress, and survival training

How are credentials monitored?

Credentials are reviewed by the chief flight nurse for currency.