CINCINNATI — As the saying goes, when you do something you love you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s something Bob Francis knows as a helicopter pilot for Metro Aviation, the company that provides pilots and mechanics for UC Health Air Care.
“I got my first airplane right when I was in seventh grade and after that, I was hooked on aviation,” Francis said.
For Francis, the love of aviation eventually took him to the Air Force Academy where he graduated in 1997. Then it was on to the seat of a Huey helicopter at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
“Our role there was to provide security for the underground nuclear complex across the central and eastern part of the state,” Francis said. “We had a secondary role of search and rescue as well.”
That search and rescue role serves Francis well now in his current role flying to medical emergencies where he and his team may be someone's only chance at survival.
“We understand the role that we have here to be able to transport the patient and the medical team members safely from point A to point B and all of us pilots take that very seriously,” Francis said.
When he flies, there’s a nurse in the front with him while the physician is in the back. When they land and load a patient into the helicopter, the nurse jumps in the back to assist the doctor. On the way into the landing site, the nurse serves as an extra set of eyes for safety.
“The nurse is trained up front on night vision goggles as well as the pilot so when we go into a scene, we got two people on NVGs to go in there and land safely,” Francis said.
It takes a team to keep the helicopters in top shape. Out of the eight mechanics working with UC Air Care, seven are military-trained veteran mechanics while eight of the 13 pilots received their flight training in the military.
While flying to scenes of car crashes is his daily job, Francis said taking the helicopter to ‘Touch a Truck’ events where kids can come up and check out the helicopter firsthand has been a joy for him.
“It’s exciting to see the joy they have and all the questions they have, seeing all the gauges things like that and that takes me back to the day seeing that myself,” Francis said. “To see that next generation and hopefully inspire them to continue on with their dream.”