Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) Tool

Hello Central Southwest Members!

I participated in the Iowa Aviation Conference in Des Moines this week (glad to see and meet some of you there!) and, while there, I learned about the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) tool from the Chief Pilot at Air Methods.

I don’t know about you, but I had never heard of it… and found it to be pretty interesting so I thought I’d share with you. The Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) tool is prepared by the Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) within the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) with FAA funding and its website is: http://weather.aero/tools/desktopapps/hemstool.

From that website, you can read that the HEMS tool was “specially designed to meet the needs of low-altitude VFR emergency first responders. The HEMS Tool can overlay multiple fields of interest: ceiling, visibility, flight category, winds, relative humidity, temperature, radar (base and composite reflectivity), AIRMETs and SIGMETs, METARs, TAFs, and PIREPs. All 3D data are interpolated to AGL altitudes and can be sliced horizontally on 500 ft intervals up to 5,000 ft. All data can be animated in time. The tool has high-resolution basemaps, including streets, hospitals, and heliports for the entire United States. More detail is revealed as you zoom in.” Air Methods uses the information on this website/tool to make their “no go” mission decisions. The 3:26 min demo video on the website shows how the tool works. Note you will need JAVA to  launch the tool.

Many times we spend a lot of time below 5,000 feet (especially flying VFR in busy airspace areas where we need to stay below airspace) so this tool can be helpful even for us GA pilots.

We were also told “MEDEVAC” aircraft (those aircraft with a patient on board or when time is critical… think about it as an ambulance with lights and sirens on) use frequency 123.05 as the HEMS frequency for updates. If you fly in an area where there are a lot of MEDEVAC helicopter type operations, it was recommended during the conference that pilots listen in to 123.025 (Helo Air to Air) and 123.05 (Helo Air to Ground) when appropriate through their standby radio (this information was corrected based on member comments to this post). It was explained to us that most EMS helicopters are usually monitoring and talking on at least three radios: 1) the airport’s CTAF or ATC, 2) the HEMS frequency, and 3) the company’s radio to communicate with the medical facilities.

Hope you find this useful.

Safe flying,


Seaplane Training in Central Southwest Region

Interested in flying seaplanes? Interested in getting your SES or MES designation? You are already a seaplane pilot but want to get current? Well, you can do it within the Central Southwest Region. Here is a listing of training providers:

– Oklahoma:

  • Grand Seaplanes, LLC in Oklahoma’s Grand Lake. www.grandseaplanes.com Contact Steve Robinson at (918) 289-3940 or via e-mail at [email protected]

– Texas:

  • Lakeway Seaplanes in Austin. www.texasseaplane.com. Contacct Robert White at (512) 914-6682 or via e-mail at [email protected]
  • Promark Aviation in the Texas Hill Country: http://www.promarkaviation.net/learn-to-fly/seaplane-training/. Ken Wittekiend, (830) 385-1593.
  • North Texas Seaplanes. Their primary bases of operations are the Denton area and Bishop Field (76T). Lakes used include Lake Tawanoki, Lake Palestine, Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Lavon, Lake Lewisville, Lake Ray Roberts, Eagle Mountain Lake, Lake Texoma, Lake Ray Hubbard, Cedar Creek Lake, Joe Pool Lake, and Lake Fork. Training is in a Supercub. http://www.northtexasseaplanes.com/, (940) 389-6100, and [email protected]
  • Cubs, Floats and Fun at David Wayne Hooks Airport (KDWH, north of Houston). http://www.cubsfloatsandfun.com/, [email protected] and (318) 880-7787.
  • Texas Bush Pilots at David Wayne Hooks Airport (KDWH, north of Houston). Contact Terry Sonday at (281) 467-4348 or via e-mail at [email protected]

– Lousiana:

  • Southern Seaplane, Inc. at the Southern Seaplane Airport (65LA) in Belle Chasse (just southeast of New Orleans).  Training is in a PA-18 Supercub floatplane. http://www.southernseaplane.com/seaplane-training, [email protected], and (504) 394-5633.
  • Cubs, Floats and Fun at the Pineville Municipal Airport (2L0) or Houma-Terrebonne Airport (KHUM). http://www.cubsfloatsandfun.com/, [email protected] and (318) 880-7787.

– Missouri:

  • Jones Brothers & Company Air & Seaplane Adventures. Rob Galloway has started a summer seaplane training program using a Cessna 180 out of Coconuts Restaurant in the Lake of the Ozarks. An FAA-designated examiner comes from Arkansas to conduct the checkrides. www.jonesairandsea.com and (573) 434-0284.

Safe skies and calm waters!

New “Convective Outlook” graphic planned for Alaska

In their ongoing efforts to improve the weather forecasts for the aviation community, the National Weather Service’s Alaska Aviation Weather Unit is upgrading the seasonal “convective outlook” forecast.  These graphics are only produced during the summer convective season, and as of May 1st, the format will change.  Below is a sample showing some of the changes which include:

  • Color coding for the coverage (isolated, scatted or widespread)
  • New this year, Towering Cumulus (TCU) will be added to the product
  • The forecast bases and tops will be annotated.

sample convective outlookLink to sample product.

In addition, NWS is looking to increase temporal resolution, but in a more dynamic way. They will have the ability to produce up to eight outlook charts covering a 24 hour period, but will only generate as many as needed for the expected changes.  On very dynamic days, a user might scroll through a series of charts to see conditions develop. Under more stable conditions, fewer charts will be used to tell the story.  Check out this example  to get a better idea of what a sequence could look like.

As always, NWS would like feedback from pilots on their aviation products.  The email link at the bottom left corner of the AAWU page will let you send them an email.  Please take the time to share your thoughts—how you use them, what you like, what might be confusing.

As the snow continues to fall over parts of Alaska in April, it is nice to at least be able to anticipate summer!


As pilots, we are unusually cognizant of regulations. From the beginning of our adventure into becoming a pilot and now in our everyday flying we are exposed to a plethora of FAA regulations that we must comply with. The truth be known, every facet of our life is fraught with regulations. Business publications consistently bemoan a burgeoning number of regulations coming from our Federal government. But the Feds aren’t alone in their zeal to regulate. A part of my job as AOPA’s Southern Region Manager is to monitor not only State and Local legislative matters but also the regulatory environment closer to our member’s home.

Last year, a Middle Tennessee Part 141 Flight School received notification from the state’s Higher Education Commission that they were required to “register” with the agencies Postsecondary Schools Division. It happened that the agency was also the designated State Approving Agency for the Veterans Administration and this flight school sought VA Approval. After learning that the state agency would be requiring an extraordinary application process, burdensome administrative responsibility and very high fees, the flight school decided to challenge the state’s authority to further regulate what the FAA was already regulating. After all, only the FAA can issue a pilot’s license.  Sounded like a no-brainer!

But wait… before taking the matter to court, it was decided to request an opinion from Tennessee’s Attorney General regarding the state’s authority to regulate a Postsecondary flight training school. When the opinion came down, the AG said yes, Tennessee law was clear – the agency did, in fact, have the necessary authority. So, the flight school felt that it was forced to go about satisfying the application process and paying the fees – a whopping $10,000!

Given the Tennessee AG’s opinion, it was now clear that we would need to put together a new strategy – one that did not challenge the state’s authority to do what they were doing. We began to craft an entirely new approach.

Attempts to negotiate with the agency and to provide some insight into the incompatibility of their regs with those of the FAA, and to try and facilitate some sort of stakeholder input were met by deaf ears. Simply put – the bureaucracy appeared to be “dug in”!

After months of research and investigation, we put together a letter to the Governor outlining our argument that the state’s regulations were completely unnecessary and incompatable with FAA regulations; that the FAA regulations and authority are dominant, regardless of what the state required and that these (new) regulations are a disincentive for aviation training businesses to operate in Tennessee. The Governor’s office graciously responded to our concerns and set up a meeting with the Higher Education Commission where we again reiterated our concerns.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the General Counsel for the Higher Education Commission agreed that state oversight in this case was indeed unnecessary and the agency joined with us to write and file the necessary legislation to change the law in Tennessee. The agency’s Counsel even went the extra mile as we, together, followed the measure through the customary legislative committees and votes in both the House and Senate. The Bill is on the Governor’s desk. Aviation training in Tennessee, regulated by the FAA, will be exempt from state oversight.

AOPA provides us with marvelous tools to help monitor state legislative activity and with the help of vigilant members and our dedicate corps of Airport Support Network Volunteers; we have a good handle on local legislation (ordinances, etc.). But keeping an eye on the “regulatory” environment can be a real challenge. It is, oftentimes, much more surreptitious. In the case I have just outlined, there was apparently no formal rule-making process that included any stakeholder input at all so the agency didn’t feel obligated to do any sort of outreach. Then, of course, there is the problem of what I will call an “overzealous bureaucracy” – I think I will spare you my feelings about that!

Back to New England

Hi all,

From your new Eastern Regional Manager — My family and I have relocated back home to New England to be better positioned to serve AOPA members in the Northeast.  Thank you for your patience and support as I continue to work to get up to speed on legislative issues and become active in the region’s aviation community.

I had plans to go flying today but the gusty winds postponed my insurance checkout flight until Saturday, so hopefully the Aviation Gods will allow for more-enjoyable flying weather!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for future posts.

Tailwinds & Blue Skies!