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Posted on Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 10:45 a.m.

Survival flight helicopters fly over Ann Arbor for photo shoot

By Ben Freed


The University of Michigan Health System helicopters flew past the offices Tuesday morning.

Ben Freed |

All three new survival flight helicopters from the University of Michigan Health System were flying in formation over Ann Arbor Tuesday morning for a photo shoot.

The purpose of the exercise was not only to have new pictures of the helicopters for promotional uses, but also to shoot landing exercises to show outside flight crews proper landing procedure at the university’s helipads, a health system spokeswoman said.

The new helicopters have a much bigger range than the old ones did, said hospital spokeswoman Kara Gavin.

“So we need to make sure that crews from around the region know what they’re doing if they fly in to our hospital.” ' A fourth helicopter joined the Survival Flight helicopters to take the pictures, Gavin said.

Gavin said photo shoots with the helicopters are rare, and that this is only the second one she can recall being done. Normally one helicopter is based in Livingston County while the other two stay in Ann Arbor.

She added that having the three in one place on a non-emergency mission would not be a problem if they were needed to airlift a patient.

“We have crews of nurses on two of the helicopters during the shoot so that if there’s an emergency they can peel off at a moment’s notice,” she said.

There is also a new helipad at the new Mott Children’s Hospital. The helicopters will be taking demonstration photos of landing procedures at the new pad to send to other area hospitals, Gavin said.

“It’s very important that people from other crews know how to locate the pad and land there,” Gavin said.

“Pediatric patients will be landing directly there now as well as organs for pediatric transplants.”

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Paul Taylor

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 4:04 p.m.

I luvz helicopters. They go fast and make loud swooshing sounds. I seen some that pick up big logs in the forest. They make paper from logs. I lernd that in scool. There. Are y'all satisfied, now? I lowered the level of discourse to that appreciated by the angry readers and the staff. Deletion in 3-2-1...


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 5:13 a.m.

Very cool photo! I saw these four flying over today, and wondered about the fourth "odd duck."


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 2:35 a.m.

I am reading half of these comments? Someone sure has a lot of friends who are submitting neg votes to everyone. Hate to say it, but I totally agree with some of them. What a waste of money. Ever hear of tandem flying? Go figure. At any rate would have been nice if one of them fell out of formation to remember the ones lost in that last accident. Just a thought UM.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 2:20 a.m.

Paul Taylor I know you won't read this, because you evidently didn't read the article before you made your comment because if you had read it you would have read that two of the helicopters during the shoot had full crews on board just in case there was an emergency and they were needed. I bet all those on here complaining about the waste of these new helicopters would be complaining if you needed them and they were not around to help you.

Paul Taylor

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

I read your comment. Confirming that I did violates the guidelines, though.

Paul Taylor

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 3:59 p.m.

Well, I guess you were wrong, then!

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 1:05 a.m.

So glad it wasn't at 3am in the morning

Kai Petainen

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 10:52 p.m.

awesome stuff. i'm a fan of the helicopters. good stuff! it's cool that they did the photo op... it's good stuff. perhaps someday I should get a photo of them flying into the sunset... it shouldn't be too hard...?


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 11:35 p.m.

Your photos are great, Kai...I'm surprised you weren't outside snapping pics today! We went outside to watch them; they were flying low and slow.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 10:02 p.m.

We were observing them at the Re-Use center.They were flying slow and easy unlike when the president came to they were on a mission....which I suppose they were.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 9:35 p.m.

I hope prints become available for purchase. I'd gladly buy one and support Survival Flight.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.

My 92-year-old father was airlifted from his assisted living facility to a hospital 40 miles away after he either fell or suffered a stroke, perhaps both. He then lay in the hospital for several hours of "evaluation" before treatment began. Because of the limited space in the helicopter, my stepmother was unable to accompany him during what turned out to be his last moments of consciousness. This struck my siblings and me as not only a huge waste of money (fortunately insurance covered it) but also deeply saddened us that he did not have his wife along to comfort him, as he could have in an ambulance. There may be situations where these are useful, but I can't see how three are needed at U-M, particularly if they're flying off to Kentucky and the UP to transfer patients. Helicopters are not cost-efficient transportation over such ranges. I understand that most of the time these are not even emergencies, but scheduled transfers of patients in weak condition. I have to think there are a lot of marginal flights billed off to insurance companies to cover the costs of this program.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 9:33 p.m.

Three are needed because they are on a rotation. One of the three is typically at Bijan Air at Ann Arbor Airport undergoing maitainence and inspections while the other two are on duty.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

My father was chief test pilot for Igor Sikorsky on the first four helicopters. Sikorsky always hoped that they would be used for saving lives. Ten years after the first fully successful flight, on a Sunday afternoon our family was traveling on Route 25 in Connecticut. The car behind us honked and flashed its lights. My father pulled over onto shoulder, Sikorsky got out of his car, came up to our car, tipped his hat to my mother, then bear hugged my father and with tears in his eyes said "Les, our dreams are realized. They are calling our helicopters 'angels of mercy.'"


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

I suspect the comments about wasted time and money are in reference to three helicopters being flown at the same time for a demonstration and photo, when one could be used for the demonstration.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

In response to Nicholas...all the commercials for the New Mott was for marketing as well. Can see where it got the U-M, now, didn't it? In the hole. The saying "build it and they will come"...didn't apply there. Do they really think all these cutbacks are going to resolve their deficit? Very, very, poor planning.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 8:52 p.m.

It was a marketing and PR stunt. This is big big business.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

Fireman save lives too. Where is the call for more funds for the fire dept?


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 1:07 a.m.

I'm with you on that! Everyone who serves others should be supported! We have one main road and I follow the same prayer ritual as I hear and watch the fire, rescue and police drive by my business on their way to being heroes.....yet again. Our town actually passed two huge milages in the past few years. I guess I live in quite an unusual community...but I do understand why everyone loves it here. Keep making noise, perhaps more people will listen.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 8:20 p.m.

I complain about that all the time... too bad others dont.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

If it wasn't for survival flight helicopters at UMHS, my grandfather would not be alive. He needed to be transported to UMHS from a hospital near Detroit that couldn't provide the care he needed in order to survive. Some of the commenters on here need to think more deeply and back up their assumptions with a cost/benefit analysis before making assumptions and jumping to conclusions.

Jane Heineken

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 7:48 p.m.

I caught them dipping downwards in a triangle formation when I was on State St.--they looked like brightly colored tropical fish in an aquarium! It took me a minute to process what I was seeing. Thanks for the explanation.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

How often are the helicopters used for non-emergency flights? Including training, transporting executives, etc.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 8:51 p.m.

Let's hope not, considering those helicopters cost many, many thousands of dollars an hour to operate.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 7 p.m.

Probably not as often as the comments posted from your work computer.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

Obviously these machines are expensive. But a waste of money? Really? Wow.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 3:03 a.m.

jns131, so it is NOT a waste of money then? Glad to see you agree with me.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

hb11? They do practice with their equipment. Just a thought.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

So, I suppose you want the pilots to "wing-it" and not practice at all until needed. I suppose you two geniuses believe your local fire departments shouldn't practice with their equipment either.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 2:33 a.m.

Wow. The last person who said this? Got a ton of neg votes. I agree with you on this one.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 6:19 p.m.

Really, you believe that having three Survival Flight Helicopters is unnecessary and a waste of money? I hear it so differentlly. I live under one of the flight paths to the hospital. Nothing else much flies over us. You probably have no real idea of how often we hear those life saving rotors above us. In my community,some of us stop and look up..some even comment on the passover...we may not know where they're going but we do know that lives are at stake. Every time I hear them, I say a prayer for the crew, the medical staff, and the people who are in need of their services. I also say a prayer of thanksgiving that we are so blessed to have these transports so readily available for all of us. I guess I look at what is important and valuable differently than you. To each his own. May the . Sometimes I say these prayers more than once a day and sometimes more than a few times a week.

Eye Believe

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

Thanks Rosellen - I too say a prayer every time I hear or see them.

Blue Marker

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

rosellen, After reading about the crash in Illinois and remembering our own lost heroes (my wife has been at UM Hospital forever and knew one of the members that was killed) I also say a little prayer every time I see one in the sky. You have to admire people who put their lives on the line to help others.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 6:30 p.m.

rosellen......I live near St. Joe's although I hear low flying planes often ( must be a different flight pattern ) I, like you hear and see the copters quite often on their way to St. Joe's.Although I don't pray ( I'm a bad Christian ) I agree with you 100%


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

nice comments. I also live on the approach/departure path. While the new birds ARE louder than the old ones, I dont mind it bec I know that they are being used for a darn good cause. God forbit anyone of us ever needs to use one...Im glad they're there.

Ben Freed

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 6:23 p.m.

Thanks for sharing rosellen.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

I saw them. Glad to find out why they were out like that.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 5:24 p.m.

This, from the org telling workers to give up wages &/or tighten up on spending... typically insensitive.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

"provide" a great service...


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

Yep. I personally know someone JUST hired, making top dollar, won't give away what department. However, where this person previously worked, the mightly dollar was everything and they ran a tight ship. Apparently, not so at the U-M....a little careless with their spending and their time management...which in my opinion got them in the position they are in. People do talk from within about "their own." So, a2cents, are you really surprised? However, the survival flights do serve a great service, I have no problems with that. It's everything else.

Paula Gardner

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

Cool photo, Ben. Thanks for catching it!

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

What does the University charge a patient for a typical flight?

Eye Believe

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

Insurance covered most of the flight my daughter was on - we had to pay $1000 out of pocket


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 1:36 a.m.

The average charge for a life flight is between 12 and 25,000 dollars. A basic 15 minute flight will average around 10 to 12,000 dollars.

Elaine F. Owsley

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

A life saved - Like the last line of the commercial says - "Priceless"!

Ryan Martin

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

$29 or 2 for FIFTY!!

Linda Peck

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:49 p.m.

For all of the naysayers commenting here, I would bet that if you were injured on a roadway out of town you would be so appreciative that these pilots and medical people were coming to help you out! I know I am grateful for them and grateful that they know how to do this safely.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

Yes, but my understanding is that they are rarely used for emergency response. They're typically used to transfer patients from other hospitals. See my comment down below for my own experience when my 92-year-old father was airlifted from his assisted living facility at the time he died. Basically, my siblings and I felt it was a ridiculous thing to do, particularly given that treatment wasn't begun until several hours after he reached the hospital. These do save lives sometimes, but it seems to me they aren't always used judiciously.

George Forbes

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

Sounds like a waste of time and money.

Fred Crothers

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 10:30 p.m.

Just like the "no need" to practice for disasters! Get real!


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 5:53 p.m.

hope you or your family members never need one


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

Three new helicopters all at once? No need to wonder where some of our healthcare or tax dollars are going.

Eye Believe

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

I think they are worth every penny - my daughter was airlifted from Saline to Mott!


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 2:32 a.m.

nobama care pays for these things. Not. UM since it is eating up all the available space inside Ann Arbor.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 9:33 p.m.

I don't know Abe - if they only saved one life over all their years of operation, it seems the money would have saved a lot more lives spent elsewhere. Resources are always limited, and we have to apply them where they do the most good. Just sayin'.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

Abe Since you are the one in the know. Why not tell us where the funds came from?


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 5:53 p.m.

you get him abe!

Honest Abe

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 5:49 p.m.

@Justcurious- You should really research where the funds came from to pay for these choppers, because you're a tad bit wrong, to say the least. Also, don't forget, these helicopters save lives. If those helicopters saved only 1 life through out the's worth it. There are injuries where time is the essence! Spinal injuries, head trauma, heavy bleeding and such may require more than an ambulance. Especially if the patient is in a rural area. I'm against wasteful and/or excessive spending too, since that is what you were implying, but your comment is offensive, thoughtless and lacks compassion!

Kara Gavin

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:04 p.m.

Thanks Ben and everyone who has tweeted about seeing the helicopters in the air! We can reach so many more hospitals with our new aircraft -- as far as Kentucky and nearly all of the U.P. We also will use these photos to spread the word to emergency and ICU staff across the region about the incredible intensive-care-in-the-air service we can now bring to them and their patients. We'll also be sharing some photos with everyone on in coming weeks. Thanks to our partners at Pentastar Aviation and Bijan Air for assistance this morning. Kara Gavin UMHS Public Relations

Ben Freed

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 3:57 p.m.

Gavin added that the while the increased range can help hospital fly in patients from surrounding hospitals. The pictures were to assist crews from other hospitals that already had the capability of reaching UMHS with their own flight crews. Ben