by Eric Stearley
Heartland Career Center students welcomed a high-tech visitor to the school as Lutheran Air 2 landed in the south parking lot Thursday, Nov. 21. The helicopter’s visit was the result of a partnership between the vocational school and Lutheran Air to benefit students in the health sciences and criminal justice programs.
“We try to start kids on a pathway of interest and point them toward opportunities in the community,” said Principal Mark Hobbs.
Prior to the helicopter’s arrival, students in the heath sciences and criminal justice programs had a chance to talk with Luann McKinley and Tina Underhill, registered nurses with the flight program. Students had an opportunity to learn about the job, observe life-saving procedure demonstrations, and ask questions about caring for trauma patients and the impact it has on those responding to the scene of an accident.
Criminal justice students got a chance to lay out the helicopter’s landing, at the school, just as they would have to do in an emergency situation. One lucky student even got to call it in on the radio.
“We like to partner with communities,” said Pat Unger, a Wabash County resident, former Heartland student and current flight program manager for Lutheran Air. “We like to reach out and educate.”
Though aimed at the health science and criminal justice programs, students from every program got a chance to go outside and see the helicopter. The idea of a flying ambulance intrigued some students, while others were more excited by the mechanics of the Eurocopter-135’s twin 750 horsepower engine cruising at 150 mph.
“The kids are excited about it because they’ve never seen anything like it that close,” Hobbs said as the students inspected the $5 million helicopter inside and out.
Students also had a chance to talk with Lutheran Air 2 Pilot Bill Tucker about his experience flying helicopters.
“I started flying helicopters with wood blades and piston engines,” said Tucker. “These turbine engines are incredible. These are fiberglass rotors. It’s got a carbon-fiber tail boom.”
A former crop duster, Tucker stressed the reliability and safety of the aircraft.
“This is definitely the nicest helicopter I’ve flown, and the safest,” said Tucker. “It’s all computerized. If something happens with one of the engines, I just flip a switch and it takes care of it.”
This spring, Heartland will begin offering an emergency medical responder class. Local paramedics will train students in the classroom and at the fire station.
“The EMR (Emergency Medical Responder) opportunity is great, because they’re going to teach it and give ride-alongs,” said Hobbs. “It’s set up like an internship.”
Thought the path from emergency medical responder to air ambulance crew member is long, Heartland Career Center’s Supervisor of Student Services Pete Dupont hopes that it will open students eyes to the opportunities available if they continue to work toward a career in their chosen field.
“It’s a great opportunity for [Lutheran Air 2], being new to the area, and a great opportunity for our students,” said Dupont.