Jan. 9, 2019
As a combat veteran in the Navy’s En Route Care program, an air transport nurse for Duke and Vanderbilt’s Life Flight networks and a critical care air transport instructor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Ron Bolen can attest firsthand to the life-saving impact of general aviation.
“The fact is, most people don’t realize the role that general aviation and flight nurses have in emergency healthcare. I have seen firsthand how general aviation is often the only way to rapidly provide advanced medical care for patients that ground transportation cannot fulfill,” Bolen wrote in an op-ed piece published in The Andalusia Star-News. “In addition, medical centers in rural areas do not always have the capacity to offer the right services for their patients. Medevac flights are extremely vital in transporting these patients to nearby hospitals in Huntsville, Birmingham and Vanderbilt where they can get the care that they need.”
General aviation is especially important to hurricane relief efforts in the state. “According to the Alabama Forestry Commission, over 40,000 forested acres were destroyed in [Hurricane Michael], which accounts for an estimated $20 million in timber. Communities in the Gulf region are still recovering,” wrote Bolen. “Despite this devastation, general aviation brings people together in the best way possible. Relief organizations like Operation Airdrop use general aviation aircraft to send supplies to disaster communities that are cutoff from other means of transportation.”
Bolen added that while most of the conversations surrounding aviation focus on commercial aviation, general aviation contributes greatly to communities and local and state economies.
“My career as an air transport nurse has given me the opportunity to experience the side of the industry that is overlooked,” Bolen wrote. “Across the country, small and medium-sized airports support general aviation aircraft that provide access to medical services, disaster relief programs, business development opportunities, and industry growth to communities that need it the most.”