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Marc meets Alf Gasparro
Air Ambulance Pilot

Marc meets Alf Gasparro | Kidspiration

What if your job meant you had to be ready to go to work at any minute, throughout the day? If your work is rescuing people who’ve been badly injured and need emergency care, you need to be out the door, right away, as soon as possible!

Alf Gasparro flies an air ambulance, a specially equipped helicopter that can go where ambulances using the roads and highways can’t. The helicopter team includes two paramedics and a doctor, and all their emergency medical equipment. They can give emergency anesthesia, check a patient’s heart condition, or even do emergency roadside operations.

Mr. Gasparro has been flying the TVAA helicopters for fourteen years now. Most of the time, the team goes to three emergencies a day. These can be traffic collisions (including motorcycle crashes), equestrian or sports accidents, or illnesses that happen at home, like heart attacks or strokes.

His helicopter and crew can arrive anywhere in Oxfordshire within ten minutes of taking off. Between 1999 and 2013, the air ambulance flew over 14,500 rescue missions. If the patient needs more treatment, Mr. Gasparro flies to one of several hospitals where helicopters can land. Or he can bring other emergency doctors to the patient at the accident scene.

And while the doctor and paramedics help the patient, nothing would happen without the pilot to fly them to where they’re needed. “I’m just a smaller part of a big machine,” he said in an online interview. “I don’t want to blow my own trumpet. I just come in and do my job.”

Marc interviews Alf Gasparro, helicopter pilot for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance, at RAF Benson, South Oxfordshire.



Marc:
Hi I’m Marc and today I’m meeting with Alf Gasparro. He’s the head pilot for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance – getting help to people in emergencies where a normal ambulance can’t. Let’s go and meet up with him before he gets another call out.

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Marc:
So Alf can you please tell me a little bit about what you do?

Alf:
Yeah. I’m the pilot for the local air ambulance here which is the Thames Valley Air Ambulance. And we cover the area of Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Buckinghamshire just to the west of London.

Marc:
All right, going to the helicopter how fast does it go?

Alf:
Well this one will cruise in the region of about 150 miles per hour.

Marc:
And how many people can you fit in it?

Alf:
We can fit a maximum of eight for the certification of the helicopter.

Marc:
Alright.

Alf:
However as we fly in a medical role we can fit four crew and one patient.

Marc:
So you must have a bit of a gang don’t you?

Alf:
Well we’ve got quite a bit of a gang yeah. And the gang is made up of one pilot and one doctor and two paramedics.

Marc:
Do you help in the medical procedures?

Alf:
We help insomuch that we carry stretchers. We help with rolling patients over or getting medical equipment. But no the actual fixing part – the medical part – is all done by the paramedics and doctors.

Marc:
Yeah you take it out regularly. How many times a day usually?

Alf:
On average we’ll fly about 3 or 4 times a day. Now sometimes we can be very busy. So the most I’ve ever lifted or taken off is about 13 times in one day.

Marc:
Thirteen times.

Alf:
That’s 13 separate emergencies that we’ve had to attend.

—-

Alf:
Okay so this is the new helicopter that we’ve got. We’ve had it about a month and it’s an EC135 Eurocopter – a T3 model. So this is brand new. And it’s pretty much top of the range as well. It’s got two engines. One of the engines is here. The other one is on the other side. And this is about an 800 horsepower engine you know per each engine. So we kind of use half of that really just with normal flying.

So there’s lots of power here. You can see here we’ve got all these screens. Now these screens in the center – they give us information on the helicopter how it’s performing, how the engines are working, and also if there are any failures, any warnings that we have to – any emergencies that we have to deal with. Here on this side you see you know we put the stretcher – So the stretcher comes here. This is where we lie the patient down here. And these seats can move forward and backwards.

They can rotate around as well. And then you have another medic, a paramedic, or a doctor sitting there. This seat here – this can turn around as well. So if I show you that – there we go. So we can have three people now –

Marc:
Watching.

Alf:
Attending to a patient you see?

—-

Marc:
What’s the worst thing that’s happened when you’re trying to save someone in an emergency?

Alf:
The worse thing unfortunately is when we lose somebody, when we can’t save them, when we work on them and it’s very hard to – It’s very hard to deal with sometimes especially if they are young people and young children who have got their whole life ahead of them.

Marc:
Yeah.

Alf:
That’s very difficult to come to terms with. However as I’ve said before you know we’re here to always deliver our best care or try to give our best care to the next person who needs our help.

Marc:
Yeah.

Alf:
So that’s why we try and put it to the back of our minds until the end of the shift, the end of the duty. And then we go onto the next person that needs our help.

Marc:
And then do you have a copilot in your cabin?

Alf:
Just one pilot.

Marc:
Just you.

Alf:
Yes.

Marc:
So something could go wrong.

Alf:
If something were to go wrong then we’d be able to deal with it as a crew and also deal with it as a pilot. As I said you know we train all the time and we’re constantly going through drills. And that’s what a pilot does really. You know we’re very much – We very much follow a procedure the whole time. So we’re confident that every time we’re in that helicopter. If an emergency situation – if something goes wrong with that helicopter we’ll be able to control it, land safely, and then everybody can get out and walk away.

Marc:
And your best advice for kids?

Alf:
Best advice for children: listen to your parents. [laughter]

Marc:
Listen to your parents.

Alf:
No. You know just enjoy life and you know do your best in whatever you can. And you know read and study as hard as you can. But just enjoy life ’cause life is about enjoyment as well as getting on and you know doing great things.

Marc:
Alright, thanks Alf.

Alf:
Really good to meet you.

Marc:
Nice to meet you.

Alf:
And thanks for asking all the questions.

—-

Marc:
Meeting Alf today was a really cool experience in learning about the air ambulance. He’s a really cool guy and he’s a life-saver. Join us next time on Kidspiration to learn more about interesting people.