Being a Pilot of an Air Ambulance

January 13, 2020

Today we accompany our First Officer Philipp on a duty rotation, which led him to five airports in five countries. Philipp shows us what makes his job as a pilot at Tyrol Air Ambulance so exciting and different.


Dear TAA Blog Reader,

I am Philipp and since about a year now I am working for Tyrol Air Ambulance. Today I am happy to take you with me and to give you a brief insight into my job as pilot in air ambulance operations. Let’s go!


Innsbruck, home base, departure 16:15 LT. My duty starts at Innsbruck with a ferry flight to Valencia. Today we go straight to bed after arrival at the hotel. Tomorrow we will start early.

Valencia, Spain. My day starts as usual when staying over night. Breakfast with the crew, but today only with Thomas my captain of the flight. Our medical crew Holger and Stephan are already on their way to the hospital to pick up our patient of today.

Quick after breakfast a taxi picks us up and brings us to the airport where our handling agent is already awaiting us friendly and hands us the flight documents and information. Now its up to us to check if the received documents, the calculated fuel, weather and airport information are all within the limits. Everything okay, so we go out to the aircraft.

Now one of my tasks is to keep a careful eye on the refueling process. As soon as the calculated amount of fuel is transferred our medical crew arrives in an ambulance car at the aircraft with flashing blue lights. Today we are bringing an intensive care patient home to Maastricht, Netherlands which is about 1.400 km away. We receive a quick briefing from our medical crew about any specials we might face during boarding or inflight. Sometimes patients need for example a lower flight altitude because of the decreased pressure in the cabin. No special requirements today.

Sunrise departures amaze me every time. Even pilots with decades of experience take out their mobile phones in those moments once they are above 10,000 ft…

The flight takes about two and a half hours and is very smooth and uneventful. I have some time for a couple of photos during the flight.

East of Marseille

Maastricht, Netherlands. After arrival in Maastricht an ambulance car is already waiting to bring our patient the last few kilometers to the hospital. This is a bed-to-bed mission, so our medical team attend the patient from the intensive care unit at the hospital in Valencia to the receiving ICU ward in the hospital in Maastricht.

My captain and I now have a break of about two hours. This is the time our medical crew needs to hand over the patients in safe hands in the receiving hospital and to come back. After disembarking our patient we refuel the aircraft for the following flight, which will be a new distance record for me. The weather forecast shows 80 kph of tailwind along the route so this flight is possible without a fuel stop. We are flying to Paphos, Cyprus.

The 2.900 kilometer route brings us directly over the beautiful landscapes of the Balkans and Turkey to Cyprus.

…and just a bit later the starlit sky presents itself.

Paphos, Cyprus. Upon arrival in Paphos we prepare the plane for the night. The engine and sensor covers are applied and we take a taxi to the hotel.

Today’s hotel even beats the regular standards, 5-star hotel at the beach with a good welcome drink. That’s how every long flying day should end… Even though it’s quite late already we meet for a dinner together in one of the hotel restaurants.

At dinner together we joke that we have to go swimming at such a place. Said, done. So the whole crew meets in the morning at the pool and the joking talk is made true.

After the cool refreshment in the water and the breakfast, Thomas and I are driving directly to the airport – again while our medical crew are picking up today’s patient in the hospital. A German tourist suffered a stroke in her holidays and is now being brought back home by us.

My day again starts with refueling the jet. Unfortunately, yesterday’s helpful tailwind has not decreased and we will need a fuel stop in Sofia, Bulgaria on the way to Nuremberg, Germany.

Patient arrives…

Also this time I was able to take some pictures on the way.

Sofia. Bulgaria. After a short fuel stop at Sofia we are ready for the last stage of our flight.

Nuremberg, Germany. The flight went smoothy and five hours after departure in Paphos we arrive in Nuremberg. Here again our medical team accompanies the patient with the waiting ground ambulance to the hospital.

Now, this duty is slowly coming to an end. For the four of us it is now a short hop back to Innsbruck. Satisfied to have helped some people, we enjoy the short ferry flight back to our home base.

Innsbruck, home base, arrival 17:10 LT.