by Billy Clouse
Yesterday, A.P.E.X. Events hosted Sam Ratterree for the first “Day in the Life” focus event.
The former MedEvac pilot spoke at 11:30 a.m. in the Whiting Room of the Hunter Conference Center about his life, training and aviation experiences.
He continued the discussion later at the university’s hangar.
Lynn Vartan, Director of A.P.E.X. Events, said she was glad to have Ratterree kick off the “Day in the Life” series.
“I think the life of a pilot is exciting, intense and full of awe, and I can’t wait to learn more about how pilots train, work and fly,” she said in a press release. “The A.P.E.X. Event Series is proud to shed some light on the ‘real-world’ of a helicopter pilot.”
The event was presented in an interview style, with Vartan asking Ratterree questions. Below are three of the questions asked.
What is it like flying in the military?
“I remember one patient I carried was a pregnant mother — she was eight months pregnant — she was a local Afghani who had been shot in the belly because of a tribal dispute or something like that. We flew through mountains much taller than what you have here (in southern Utah), we flew through dust storms and carried her an hour-and-a-half north to a stabilization station hospital in a tent. They delivered the baby, and the bullet had actually grazed the baby’s ribcage in the womb. It only needed three stitches, and then we flew them back, and mom and baby were fine after that. If we hadn’t been there, that wouldn’t have happened. Those types of things happen over there that you don’t hear about, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I wasn’t flying helicopters.”
What was it like being an EMS pilot?
“It is the most fulfilling flying job I’ve ever had. When you're going out and picking someone up who's suffering, whether it's a little baby or someone who’s a senior, getting them somewhere successfully is excellent, and that happens most of the time. But there are the bad days, there’s the ugly side. You’re right there with them; there’s smells, there’s screams, sometimes the stretcher comes up near the pilots and you’re looking at the feet of someone who is going through a really bad situation. You’re not carrying them because they feel good, and that’s something that people who get into EMS don’t anticipate; yeah there’s that movie aspect of it where I’m going to save lives — and you are, you do great work — but there’s a lot of psychological stuff to deal with as well… Seeing a child suffer is not a lot of fun, and no matter how hard you try not to, you look when they bring (the patient) in, you want to know what you’re doing. Thankfully that’s a small percentage compared to the normal gun shot wound or bad car accident. Every once-and-awhile, you get the burns — to me those were the worst, like I said, there’s the smells and screams, and you still have to be able to do what you need to do up front.”
Where did your love of aviation come from?
“Like a lot of people that are passionate about something, it’s always been there; it’s hard to explain what causes you to get fired up about it. My early memories are probably really similar to a lot of other people… My parents fed into the passion, typical stuff like going to the local airport and watching the planes fly around, going to air shows, riding in hot air balloons, things like that. I wish I could explain it, but thankfully I’ve always taken to it, because I’m not good at many other things. I’ve enjoyed the teaching part of it the most — that’s where the true passion lies.”
For a more personal reflection on the event, check out the A.P.E.X. Event Series website.