“We land helicopter on stadium fields, streets and courtyards”: Ekaterina Oreshnikova — about profession of air ambulance pilot

November 1
Safety and security

Since the start of this year, the Moscow Aviation Center specialists performed over 870 ground and flight missions for search, emergency and rescue operations, and evacuating victims to medical institutions.

Ekaterina Oreshnikova, the pilot of the BK 117C-2 helicopter and the only female pilot in Moscow air ambulance, works in the air team that helps save lives.

She told mos.ru about lucky accidents in her choice of the profession and the specifics of her service.

Signs of fate

Ekaterina Oreshnikova is piloting for over 30 years — 10 years more than a female pilot in Russia needs to retire. However, Ekaterina is not going to retire — she says there are no one who came to her profession by accident, and each pilot is completely devoted to work.

But her choice of profession was a somewhat lucky accident.

“At first I wanted to be a history teacher because my mother was a teacher. And I don't know what influenced the choice - maybe it was a lucky chance, maybe heredity, but I realized that I would do my best to make my dream to be a pilot come true. At that time, I did not realize what aircraft I would pilot, and where I would study. My dad was an aviation engineer, he understood the specifics, workload and responsibility of the pilot, he understood that my future job would be difficult, but did not dissuade me. My parents protected me as best they could, but did not limit my choice of profession and always supported me very much,” the pilot said.

 Ekaterina Oreshnikova. Photo by E. Samarin. Mos.ru

By the way, a lucky twist of fate also helped Ekaterina Oreshnikova make a choice in favor of piloting the helicopter.

“To be honest, at the very beginning of my career, even before entering college, I wanted to fly an airplane — then it seemed to me a serious aircraft, and a helicopter was something obscure,” she said. But, fortunately, when I came to the training courses, there was no recruitment for the aircraft piloting group, but only for the helicopter group. Now I understand that it was a sign of fate."

Ekaterina Oreshnikova successfully graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute as a systems engineer, a flight school as a pilot-instructor, completed a specialized educational program — she studied equipment, structures, aerodynamics, engines and helicopter operation. At the start of her career, she was a member of the Moscow flying club. On top of that, Ekaterina Oreshnikova also has a serious hobby - law science, she received a second higher education in law.

The pilot emphasizes: despite the fact that only in the process of training a large amount of knowledge had to be mastered, the pilot is a specialty where professional development never stops. The profession of a pilot means new classes, courses and continuous exchange of experience.

“It is not axiomatic, it is a specialty where one cannot say: "I know everything". We are constantly sharing flight experience with other pilots, the profession’s development is everlasting,” emphasizes Ekaterina Oreshnikova.

Ambulance aviation

During her career, Ekaterina Oreshnikova managed to fly the famous Mi-2 and Mi-8, the Ka-32 with a coaxial system (such helicopters have two propellers one above the other) and the Robinson (a small passenger helicopter Robinson R44). Today she pilots the BK 117C-2 helicopter, a light aircraft capable of performing an astonishingly wide range of tasks: passenger transportation, search and rescue operations, evacuation of the sick and injured, and even medical emergency assistance.

It is on a medical helicopter, together with a two-person emergency team, that Ekaterina Oreshnikova saves lives. Inside the aircraft there is special equipment: ventilator, defibrillator, two infusion pumps (syringe pumps for administering drugs), vital signs monitor and infant transporting module.

The entire territory of Moscow, including the Troitsky and Novomoskovsky administrative districts, is under control of the air ambulance.

“Three shifts are scheduled in advance: two daytime and one nighttime. The crews change, and the duty mission is always underway”, the pilot explains. “In the beginning we must undergo medical control, then we study the meteorological situation, the navigation situation, accept the aircraft from the engineering staff, and fly to the hospital, where we are assigned to”.

Ekaterina Oreshnikova says that there are no two identical flights. It can be a sanitary transportation — for example, to deliver a patient from the suburb to a Moscow hospital, or it can be an ambulance call when a person has a heart attack or stroke. Then the ambulance drives up to the sites in the Troitsky and Novomoskovsky administrative districts, where the helicopter picks up the sick. There are also flight missions to road accidents or any emergency whatsoever.

“Sometimes you have to land right on the road. We land helicopter on stadium fields, streets, lawns and courtyards, if possible. This is a very important part of the job — to find a place of landing from the air, when the pilot himself determines where to land. He must assess safety of landing, obstacles, distance from them, terrain slope, wind direction, proximity to the accident site, in order to deliver the victim as soon as possible. There are a huge number of nuances that need to be analyzed as quickly as possible — every second counts,” noted Ekaterina Oreshnikova.

According to her, the helicopter is the only possible tool for the medical aviation operation within the city. Its first and foremost advantage is speed. The helicopter flight time from the south to the north of Moscow is from seven to nine minutes. Victims can be in serious condition, so time becomes a vital factor for them. The helicopter has medical equipment, and this is invaluable.

The second major advantage is maneuverability. The motor vehicle would not reach some places, but the helicopter can get to the most inaccessible spots. In addition, there are no traffic jams for the helicopter.

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin, Mos.ru

Professional happiness

Ekaterina Oreshnikova finds it difficult to answer the question of how the work of an air ambulance pilot differs from that of a military or civil pilot. She notes that any professional, first of all, remains a pilot — no matter what aircraft is under control. The main pilot’s task is to safely complete the flight mission.

However, air ambulance has its specific features.

“If we are talking about particular things, then, of course, there are differences: we do not transport goods and not just passengers, but people who need help, every minute is crucial,” the pilot notes. “In our job it is necessary to find the right balance. We cannot remain absolutely cold-blooded, because we know: a person is in trouble behind us, but you cannot give way to emotions — the flight safety is of top priority. The emotions come back, once we deliver the person to the hospital, where doctors will provide him with medical assistance,” says Ekaterina.

Фото Е. Photo by Yevgeny Samarin, Mos.ru. Mos.ru

Despite the constant burden of responsibility, Ekaterina Oreshnikova admits that she never thought of changing her profession. She notes that the main quality of a pilot should be dedication to his work.

“A pilot is someone who loves his profession very much. If a person comes to aviation without vocation, he will not stay long. Pilots are people who are devoted to their work to the end, there are no random people here. The second important quality, in my opinion, is the amount of knowledge. And it's not about the name of the educational institutions that the person graduated from. Every flight mission, every hour flown is a source of information. It is important to analyze it, internalize, talk about the nuances and share with colleagues,” says the pilot.

Ekaterina Oreshnikova wishes those who chose this profession, spiritual and physical strength. The pilot noted that there is no gender difference in work; the main thing is real interest and high professionalism.

“I would like to congratulate everyone who selected this profession, who dreams to be a pilot. But I also want to warn you that this requires a lot of strength, patience and confidence. This is the kind of work that is worth fighting for, spending time in long studies, which not everyone can master, but when you succeed, then you will be happy in the profession,” says Ekaterina Oreshnikova.

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin, Mos.ru

Source: mos.ru

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