Saturday, June 18, 2016

My Tribute To Those Who Fly At Night To Save Lives

These ORNGE air ambulances are a familiar sight in my neighbourhood, taking off or coming into land at the Toronto Island Airport.

And I like having them around, because my heroes are those who risk their lives to try to save the lives of others.

But three years ago one of them crashed in northern Ontario.

And it couldn't be a more tragic or more Canadian story.

The helicopter was taking off from Moosonee on a night flight to the village of Attawapiskat, when only 23 seconds after it rose into the sky, it came crashing to the ground killing the four people on board.

And now we finally know what went so quickly and so tragically wrong.

As the crew of Lifeflight 8 boarded their ORNGE air ambulance helicopter for a night flight to pick up a sick child, the trap had already been set.

Management turmoil within ORNGE meant the pilots lacked the required training and experience, that operating procedures were “inadequate” for their night flight and supervision was lax. Coupled with “ineffective” oversight by Transport Canada, the stage was set for the helicopter’s devastating crash on May 31, 2013.

The pilots weren't properly trained to fly at night in the total darkness of the Canadian bush. Government regulations allowing pilots to fly using visual flight rules at night are laxer than they are in other countries. The crew didn't have modern equipment like night-vision goggles.

And the company didn't provide the necessary supervision because it was still recovering from a massive scandal. After it was revealed that its ousted CEO had lived like a king.

Ousted ORNGE CEO Chris Mazza collected $9.3 million over six years at the province’s publicly funded air ambulance service, the governing Liberals confirmed Wednesday.

He also claimed extravagant expenses, including luxurious trips to Brazil, Europe and New York, limo rides for Ornge executives, as well as meals and drinks in posh restaurants.

And according to the paramedic's union the culture hasn't changed.

“We do not believe that safety was a priority for ORNGE at the time of the crash; we do not believe safety is a priority now,” said Chuck Telky, Unifor unit chair, ORNGE paramedics. 

 “The safety culture at ORNGE is the bare minimum, to get the job done first and foremost, and that still exists,” Telky said in a statement.

Great eh?

You know it takes guts to fly an air ambulance into the vastness of the Canadian wilderness, dodging trees, power lines and other obstacles, where there are no airports, and so called "black holes" are so common.

They don't get enough recognition, which is so Canadian. And in this tragic case it seems to me that the two pilots and two paramedics who were killed were let down by everybody. 

But they are my heroes, so I'm glad I made this video at the time. For although the quality isn't very good, it is my humble tribute to all of those who fly at night...

To paraphrase what someone once said, greater love hath no person, than one who sacrifices his or her life for another.

And may the Polar Bear God of the Great White North protect all the others...

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  1. Anonymous8:25 AM

    Beautiful tribute. Witnessed theses guys flying in for several emergencies in rural Ontario. True heroes.


    1. hi TS...I wish I had better stuff to make that video, instead of having to scrounge it from all over the internet. But yes, although I'm so sorry that the crew made some serious mistakes, like not gaining enough altitude before banking the helicopter too steeply even though they hit a black hole right after lifting off from the end of the runway, it wasn't their fault, it was the fault of those who didn't train them properly, and they are still my heroes ,as are all those in Canada who routinely risk their lives to save others...

  2. Anonymous9:55 AM

    Chris Mazza will have his own comeuppance soon enough!!!!!!! I am a strong believer in Karma. I shall patiently await Karma knocking on his door. Living the life of luxury on others dime will come back to bite him in the arse!!!!!! These morally depleted, GREEDY, thieving humans should really be sent a mirror!!!!!!! FS

    1. hi FS...yes Mazza really did live like a king, while his employees struggled with alack of proper training or equipment. And I forgot to mention that the king had some flunky fetch him a smoothie every day at a certain time. But he probably got away with it and is still living high on the hog...

  3. Anonymous2:52 PM

    You're my hero Simon, taking on the cons and exposing their corruption and greed with stories like this one that the average person (me) would never learn about. Thankyou for all you do. <3 Pamela.

    1. hi Pamela...thank you for those kind words. But no I'm no hero. I just recognize those who are, and want to make sure that they get the credit they deserve....