LIFE FLIGHT PILOT DELIVERS IN EMERGENCIES

May 21, 2000 11:00 pm
Registered nurse Christine Gary, right, and paramedic Eugene Misyuk, care for a patient while en route to Medford Airport on a Cal-Ore Life Flight. Photo By Stephen Corley/The Daily Triplicate ().
Registered nurse Christine Gary, right, and paramedic Eugene Misyuk, care for a patient while en route to Medford Airport on a Cal-Ore Life Flight. Photo By Stephen Corley/The Daily Triplicate ().

By Scott Graves

Triplicate staff writer

Whether its a prisoner whos been shot or a heart attack victim, patients can rely on pilot Bob Walker to get them to a distant hospital fast.

I get the most personal satisfaction from taking care of someone who needs help, especially children, said Walker, whose previous work includes aerial photography and piloting celebrities around.

These days, Walker, 58, is chief pilot at Cal-Ore Life Flight, a ground and air ambulance service based in Crescent City and Brookings, Ore.

Walker and his wife, Doris, grew up in Del Norte County. Walker learned to fly through an aviation program at Del Norte High School. He received an award for Outstanding Aviation Student in 1960.

After graduating, he joined the Army, where he served as a helicopter repair man. He left the Army a few years later and got licenses to fly several aircraft, from helicopters to Leer jets.

Before joining Cal-Ore, Walker and his wife ran a charter flight service for 12 years. His customers ranged from salesmen of large companies to celebrities such as Waylon Jennings and Christy Alley.

In the last 40 years, Walker has logged more than 10,000 hours of flight time, comparable to a commercial airline pilot. He has flown all types of aircraft across the United States and in other countries, but he ended up back in Crescent City.

I started my career here and I figured Id end it here, he said.

He joined Cal-Ore in 1995. He and three other pilots work in shifts, allowing for 24-hour, 7 days a week medical service from Eureka to Gold Beach, Ore.

When I heard Bob was back in Crescent City, I hired him immediately, said Dan Brattain, owner of Cal-Ore Life Flight. Hes a top notch pilot and hes dedicated to what hes doing. He knows the area, which is a great benefit for us.

On a recent flight, Walker transported an elderly Crescent City woman suffering from acute angina to Medford airport.

His plane, a 1975 Cessna 421, was checked, fueled and waiting at the Crescent City airport for the patient. Registered nurse Christine Gary and paramedic Eugene Misyuk cared for the patient while Walker taxied down the runway.

About 14 minutes into the flight, the plane leveled off at 7,500 and cruised at approximately 220 knots, or about 250 mph. It arrived in Medford 13 minutes later.

The medical crew rushed off with the patient in a waiting ambulance. Walker grabbed a soda, but before he could pop the top he was called to duty again. Another patient in Crescent City.

Walker flew back home alone. Another medical crew was being assembled in Crescent City. He ended up piloting three flights that day.

Cal-Ore patients include those suffering from heart attacks, car accident injuries and experiencing complicated births.

Not all patients are in critical condition, Walker said. Many are flown to hospitals in Portland, Medford and Eureka for specialized medical care not available at Del Norte County.

Some patients arrive in handcuffs and are well guarded. Cal-Ore has a contract with Pelican Bay State Prison, Walker said.

He recently had to fly an inmate to from Crescent city to San Francisco after the man was shot during a riot at the prison.

Last year, Cal-Ore pilots flew a total of 222 flights, Walker said. The company selects pilots who exceed basic qualifications and have logged 6,000 to 10,000 hours of flight time, he said.

When its dark and nasty out there during winter storms, you want a pilot who is experienced enough to make the right decisions, Walker said.

Winter storms and fog pose constant challenges for the pilots on the North Coast. Walker relies on his instruments for close to 50 percent of his take-offs and landings in Crescent City and Medford.

Its a balancing act between patients needs and the regulations, he said. Sometimes you want to get someone to the hospital fast, but you cant exceed the rules. You do the best you can.

Cal-Ore patients include those suffering from heart attacks, car accident injuries and experiencing complicated births.

Not all patients are in critical condition, Walker said. Many are flown to hospitals in Portland, Medford and Eureka for specialized medical care not available at Del Norte County.

Some patients arrive in handcuffs and are well guarded. Cal-Ore has a contract with Pelican Bay State Prison, Walker said.

He recently had to fly an inmate from Crescent city to San Francisco after the man was shot during a riot at the prison.

Last year, Cal-Ore pilots flew a total of 222 flights, Walker said. The company selects pilots who exceed basic qualifications and have logged 6,000 to 10,000 hours of flight time, he said.

When its dark and nasty out there during winter storms, you want a pilot who is experienced enough to make the right decisions, Walker said.

Winter storms and fog pose constant challenges for the pilots on the North Coast. Walker relies on his instruments for close to 50 percent of his take-offs and landings in Crescent City and Medford.

Its a balancing act between patients needs and the regulations, he said. Sometimes you want to get someone to the hospital fast, but you cant exceed the rules. You do the best you can.