Wind turbines won’t stop air medical transport

Posted on December 27, 2007. Filed under: Wind |


From a letter to the editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette by Ann Younger-Crandall, program manager for ThedaStar Air Medical in Neenah:

There has been much debate about the placement of wind turbines in Calumet County and their effect on air medical transport, specifically ThedaStar Air Medical, within the county.

I understand this has been a topic of controversy for more than a year in Calumet County. I have had numerous inquiries from citizens, the sheriff’s department, pilots and hospital administrators from Calumet County.

My message to all involved has remained constant: ThedaStar will continue to fly within Calumet County directly to accident scenes as requested or to Calumet Medical Center, even after the wind turbines are constructed.

When ThedaStar flies from Neenah to Calumet Medical Center, our typical flight altitude is approximately 1,000 feet above the ground. This is well above the height of the wind turbine blades and should not affect our flight patterns.


However, there is more of a safety concern when we respond to an accident scene. It will be important to our pilot staff to be aware of the placement of wind turbines as the helicopter approaches the site of a scene and that the wind turbines are well marked, especially for our night flights.

The ThedaStar flight crew will need to educate landing zone coordinators (sheriff and fire department staff) in Calumet County on how to alert our pilot of these obstacles and to determine what distance our landing zone will need to be from an active wind turbine.

ThedaStar is a member of the Wisconsin Air Medical Council, which is a group of program managers, pilots, safety personnel, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration that meets twice yearly. At our last meeting in October, we spent more than an hour listening to information regarding the wind turbine placement in Calumet County and in other counties in western Wisconsin.

We researched other flight programs across the United States, talked with vendors who hold our 135 certificates for flying and provide us our pilots and mechanics, and requested information from national organizations that specialize in air medical and helicopter flight.

We found there are no set regulations for the air medical industry in regards to wind turbines other than they’re treated like any other obstacle such as cell phone towers, electrical lines, cranes, etc., in that they are “avoided” in flight. This means you typically don’t fly directly over them at low altitudes and don’t fly in close proximity.

The FAA and the DOT had no specific recommendations, but are concerned about placement near private airports that aren’t governed by their agencies.

There also is some concern in counties where the plan is to place scattered wind turbines as opposed to a linear placement as you see more in the western part of the state. In a linear placement, the location of the towers is somewhat more predictable, although often only the towers on the parameters of the line are required to be lit.

The Wisconsin Air Medical Council continues to investigate the placement of towers and will be having several meetings to gain more information. We also will be meeting with an energy organization that’s constructing the wind turbines so it can provide us with details and answer our questions.

In summary, I want to assure you that no one in Calumet County should be denied air medical transport because of the construction of wind turbines within the county. Our concerns in the placement of the towers are in regards to providing safe transport for our crew and patients and include the following:

• Knowledge or lack of knowledge of placement of the wind turbines.
• Proper marking of the turbines.
• Re-education of county personnel who prepare our landing zones and provide landing zone information to our pilots at accident scenes.

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