It was late in December 2013, to say the weather for flying was poor would be an understatement. Moderate to heavy snow was with us most of the evening and into the night, and dense fog also set in.
Mid afternoon, the Airport Operations Specialist (Ops Spec) on duty received a call from Broome County Communications (911 Dispatch), notifying the airport of three inbound medivac flights. Each aircraft had a special medical team that was to go to Wilson Hospital. An organ donor had passed away, and these teams were coming here to transport the donated organs to hospitals in various cities for transplant.
The airport’s Fixed Based Operator / General Avaition Service provider, First Air, had a staff of two to handle the aircraft. A fourth jet arrived in advance, and was placed in the hangar so they were not delayed by having to deice upon departure. The Ops Spec notified BGM’s maintenance staff of this critical operation, and stated which runway and taxiways needed to be kept clear. Without further instruction or supervision, the maintenance staff worked diligently to keep all of these surfaces as clear and safe as possible, and relayed the field conditions to the Ops Spec who relayed them the air traffic controllers.
Each additional jet arrived late afternoon minutes apart, and the Sheriff’s department as well as two Superior Ambulances transported the medical crews and their equipment to the hospital. First Air staff fueled and put each jet in the hangar, and the Ops Spec supervised the operation to assure the safety of the large medical staff and aircraft, and so the emergency vehicles could depart without delay.
A communication network was established between the hospital, the pilots, First Air, and the Ops Spec. This assured that as each team, with their organ enroute to the airport, could have the appropriate aircraft pulled out of the hangar and ready to depart. As each aircraft taxied off the apron for take-off, visibility was so poor that the Ops Spec had to escort each aircraft individually to the runway, avoiding the busy and difficult to see snow removal equipment. All four aircraft departed by 10:40PM quickly and safely and arrived at their destinations to give the organ recipients a chance to live, all thanks to the dedicated service of all the above mentioned personnel.
Written by John Radice Airport Operations Specialist/BGM