Operating a Rescue Helicopter in an Ice Rescue

Updated: 02/04/2013 8:02 PM KSTP.com By: Katherine Johnson

No one ever wants to meet the crew inside a rescue helicopter, but they're the ones who can make all the difference.

"There's a task that needs to get done," said pilot Les TenEyck.

TenEyck flew the responding LifeLink helicopter after two people broke through the ice, Saturday.

"We're all human beings. We all have emotions," he said. "But through our training and experience you have to check that baggage and focus on the facts."

Then there's the medical crew, nurses and EMT's trained on state-of-the-art equipment.

"When you first start you're kind of like, 'How am I going to be able to fly and do this,' but somehow you just do. The patient comes first."

LifeLink is the only medical air operation with hands-free CPR capabilites in the state and one of only three in the country.  It frees up flight medics to work on other patient complications while in the air.  But they have to be able to get to you, first.

"There have been situations in northern Minnesota where it is very dense and someone is hiking or camping out in the wilderness and there is not a safe landing zone," said TenEyck.

Landing on the ice is also not an option.

"You can't look back because if you ever look back and say, 'Gosh, maybe I could have done that...' that will influence your next decision on your next flight."

So as drivers continue to risk the ice, the LifeLink crew will be ready to do everything they can to help you.

Below are the official guidelines to safely landing a Lifelink helicopter:

• The landing zone (LZ) should be at least 100 feet x 100 feet.
• Area should be firm and level, with approach and departure paths clear of wires, trees, antennas, poles, etc.
• Area should be free of debris and obstructions on the ground (small trees, posts, signs, large rocks).
• At night, mark the corners of the LZ with low beam vehicle lights, rotating beacons or
secure battery-operated lighting. Avoid shining white lights such as headlights or
spotlights toward the helicopter.
• Life Link III will land and take off into the wind.
• Area should be at
least 100 feet from
the patient. Keep
personnel back 100
feet and spectators
back 200 feet.
• Restrict access to the
LZ and helicopter.
• Do not approach the
helicopter unless
escorted by a crew
• Approach only from the
sides or front of the
helicopter, within view of
the pilot.
• Assign one person to protect the tail rotor. Position this person at
least 50 feet behind the tail rotor.
• Never approach or depart at the rear of the helicopter.
• Carry equipment in a crouched position. Never hold anything
overhead (IV bags, etc.).
• Secure all loose items such as hats, sheets, mattresses and
supplies that could get caught in the rotor wash. Don't chase items
blown toward the helicopter.
• Protect your eyes from blowing debris. If vision becomes impaired,
don't move - crouch down in place.
• Wear hearing protection around a running helicopter.
• Allow Life Link III flight crew to direct loading