TAA Flight Doctor: A Day In The Life

March 7, 2017

Prof. Dr. Andreas Fette is one of TAA’s most experienced Flight Doctors, with over 20 years’ experience on air ambulance missions. This month, TAA Blog invited him to share a typical day in the life of a TAA Flight Doctor.



I am on “standby” to fly air ambulance missions with TAA over the coming days. It’s something I always look forward to, and I make sure that my belongings are packed in advance in case I get called. As so often happens, it doesn’t take long before my phone rings. The display shows the familiar number of TAA’s Operations Control Centre (OCC). “Hi Andreas, it’s Leonie, I have a flight schedule for you”.


Mission Briefing

During our call, Leonie emails me the preliminary information about the air ambulance mission. It‘s a double transport of two trauma patients. The repatriation will be from Scotland to Denmark. “OK, see you tomorrow, I’ll pass you to Eva for the patient assessment…

I then speak about the case to Eva, one of TAA’s team of experienced assessment doctors: “Our patients are a Danish couple who have both suffered severe injuries. They were driving on holiday in their rental car in Scotland when they suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of the road on a corner and they collided frontally with a coach coming in the opposite direction. The wife suffered a polytrauma, the husband sustained complicated eye and hand injures, as well as severe bruising. After primary care has been delivered, both patients should be transported back home as soon as possible…


Outbound Flight

Before we depart from home base at Innsbruck Airport, I meet my colleague Patricia who will be the intensive care nurse on board this mission. We perform the routine pre-flight checks on our medical equipment, also discussing the mission-specific extra equipment we will need to take with us. Once this is completed, we get to work loading our equipment and setting up the aircraft for departure. We meet our pilots Artur and Christian at the hanger and have our joint briefing. “The weather is going to be bad”, reports Artur, “so we will need to be sure that the patients are stable and secure”.



Destination: Highlands

Our G100 takes off on time with the heading set for Scotland. As the clouds lifted, the airport came into view and our pilots landed on schedule. Our taxi was already waiting to take Patricia and myself to the small regional hospital without delay.

During the trip, I remarked to Patricia that “the roads are in a bad, bumpy condition, and the transport time to the airport will be around one hour, which could be a serious issue for our patients”.

On arrival at the hospital we were brought straight to the intensive care unit. There, the Danish couple were eagerly awaiting our arrival, although they had been extremely well cared for by the doctors and nurses. We took the patients into our care and transferred the wife onto our stretcher using a vacuum mattress. Her husband was transported from the hospital by wheelchair. I discuss with both patients the necessity to administer a sedative for the transport, due to the condition of the roads and the weather, to ensure that they are not subjected to any further stress after what they have already been through. Both patients accept my suggestion and Patricia activates the syringe pump. We then proceed by ground ambulance to our awaiting air ambulance jet. Our patients have taken the road journey well, and their vitals are normal. Our pilots have already prepared the patient loading system at the aircraft door so that boarding our “flying intensive care unit” can proceed immediately once we arrive.

The positioning of both patients, as well as our monitoring equipment and the syringe pump are double checked, and once the all clear is given, Artur shuts the cabin door, and gives us an update on the situation in Denmark. “Patricia, Andreas, the weather at the airport is really very bad, you should be aware that it might be a bumpy landing. I will contact our OCC by phone as well as the tower, so that everything is well prepared for us on arrival”.


Flying Home: An Emotional Welcome

Soon thereafter, we take off and leave Scotland behind, with Arthur and Christian bring us smoothly to our cruising altitude. As an “Active Hospital Flight”, we normally get the overtaking lane in the sky and the highest priority for landings. Patricia and I care for both patients during the flight, in particular the husband, who continues to blame himself for the accident. Their vitals remain stable, our equipment is performing excellently and Patricia and I work hand-in-hand as a coordinated team to look after the patients.

Half an hour before landing, some good news is delivered from the cockpit: “The weather is stable, we can land as planned. Our OCC has made arrangements with the Tower that they can disembark in a hanger, which is definitely better for them than in the driving rain on the runway”. After landing at the small Danish airport, our jet taxied to the nearby hanger where both patients were successfully transferred into the awaiting ground ambulance and into the care of the local emergency doctor.

Neither patient complained of any pain during the flight. In fact, both had coped very well with the transport. The local flight authorities were very understanding of the situation and allow the patients’ extended family into the hanger, which makes for an emotional reunion. Amid these emotional scenes, our pilots are more than happy to quickly show the grandchildren the cockpit of the G100 which had taken granny and grandad home safely. We report back to the OCC “mission accomplished” and say our goodbyes before returning to home base.


One Mission Ends, Another Begins…

Back in Innsbruck, I write up the medical report for the case. As soon as I have finished and submitted it, my phone rings again with “TAA OCC” on the display. “Hi Andreas it’s Leonie again. I have another flight schedule for you. Also, before I forget, our Danish patients contacted us and wanted to pass on their thanks for the fantastic support they received. Both of them are on the road to recovery. Please stay on the line and I’ll transfer you to Eva for the patient assessment…”


Qualities / skills of a TAA Flight Doctor

Ability to improvise, self-discipline, team-oriented, decisive, culturally sensitive & open-minded, flight & travel enthusiast, professional expertise. To become a TAA Flight Doctor or Flight Nurse, please send your application to jobs@taa.at