Nashville, TN, is widely regarded as the “country music capital of the world," but from September 22–24, Nashville was host to the annual Air Medical Transport Conference (AMTC).
The event drew thousands of air medical professionals, instructors, aviation-related medical businesses and, of course, helicopters to the Music City for several days of ongoing education classes, business deals and a chance for those in attendance to see the latest and greatest technology the air medical industry has to offer, showcased by large and small businesses alike, that cater to the industry and it’s many facets of operation.
AMTC is planned and executed by the team from the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS), which estimated this year’s attendance was up from last year by several hundred attendees, likely attributed to Nashville’s central location and the lower cost of overall attendance compared to previous conference venues.
Built into the side of one of Nashville’s many downtown-area hills, the Music City Center’s 60 meeting rooms were packed by attendees making the most of the courses provided by AAMS. Courses covered a wide range of educational opportunities for flight crews and aviation professionals in the air medical field, including specialty clinical sessions for flight nurses and paramedics, critical ground care, communications, marketing and case studies ranging from providing critical care in the Australian Outback where the nearest level-1 trauma care may be a four hour flight away, to the unique cases faced by air medical operations such as Vanderbilt LifeFlight, which was dispatched for a police officer shot in the line of duty. En route to the scene, the medical and flight team learned the “officer down” was, in fact, a police department K9 that had been shot during a police incident and officers had requested the flight land at a veterinary trauma center. Police officers value their K9s as partners just as they would a human partner and Vanderbilt’s team was tasked with the complications of transporting a critically injured animal that needed just as much attention as a human patient.
The kind of educational sessions offered at this year’s AMTC conference proved AAMS is willing to think outside the box to provide air medical professionals not just what is needed to maintain annual educational requirements, but provide medical teams with both unusual and beneficial courses that force the medical professional in an aviation-based operation to think about the “what ifs” they may face in the course of their work. Many educational sessions, such as the K9 case study session, were standing room only and showed the voracious desire medical professionals have to understand the challenges faced by others in the industry and how they overcame that adversity to obtain a successful result.
The main convention activities and educational sessions were housed in the Music City Center in downtown Nashville, where the 57,500-square-foot main exhibition floor was filled to capacity with 15 helicopters from various manufacturers, ambulances and vendors who catered to every need that an air medical operation needs to function on a daily basis. Many of the major players in the helicopter market were in attendance as exhibitors. Bell Helicopter featured the new Bell 429 from Halo Flight, as well as the Life Flight Eagle 407GX. Agusta Westland featured the new A109 Trekker from 7Bar Aviation and an A109 from LifeLink III operated by Air Methods Corp., while the Airbus Helicopters booth proved to be a crowd favorite, featuring both the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital EC 130 and the recently delivered EC155 from UF ShandsCair in Gainesville, FL, with its stunning electric blue and orange paint scheme that wowed the crowds.
Once the show was complete, 13 helicopters were wheeled directly from the exhibition floor to a giant side door, where they were staged for takeoff from a side street in the middle of downtown Nashville. Unprepared onlookers were delighted by the unfamiliar sight of multiple helicopters taking off right from the street in front of the convention center, which drew large crowds to nearby barricaded streets to witness the spectacle.
Several hundred vendors were in attendance to answer questions from flight crews and air medical decision makers, looking for more efficient and advanced solutions to continue to improve the way air medical transport operations are performed. Vendors in attendance included those catering to neonatal air transport, helicopter engine manufacturers, patient simulators, flight simulation and training, flight suits and every other business segment that operates within the air medical operations world.
One of the annual highlights of AMTC is the CAE Cup. The main stage where teams compete was well attended throughout each day of the show. Competitors from air medical teams around the country compete against each other for a chance at victory, where they are asked to complete a simulated air medical scenario from beginning to end. While these kinds of competitions happen regularly in the public safety industry, this competition is not for the weak. These scenarios are TOUGH! The dynamics of the scene and complications to the medical event increase and fluctuate constantly during the simulation to test the medical crews’ ability to stay calm under pressure, and correctly diagnose and treat a patient. While watching the event heats, attendees felt for the medical crews who had to start from scratch in the middle of a scenario after an instructor threw in a myocardial infarction occurrence right as a female patient was extracted from a vehicle wreck and was going into pre-term labor. By the end of each scenario the other medical crews watching were sweating as much as the team competing, which made for a very dynamic event throughout the show.
Originally from Australia, Ryan Mason is a freelance journalist and former police officer who specializes in aviation-based journalism and is a regular contributor to multiple national and international publications. Ryan also covers editorial content in the emergency medical services and law enforcement field.