Photo of the Day

Three crew members from Demopolis Air Evac Base 106 spent the last week in the Houston area assisting with evacuations as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Chris Gibbs, Flight RN, Steve Smith, Flight Paramedic and Base Clinical Lead, and pilot Ty Calderwood, Base Pilot Supervisor, all served on the mission and returned home Tuesday. (WAW | Stewart Gwin)

Demopolis from the Air (with photo gallery)

I’m going to go ahead and warn you all – I am NOT a writer. That said, I can tell a story. So, here goes . . .

flight picGod didn’t give me wings like a bird, so I prefer to keep my feet safely on the ground. A few days ago, I had the privilege of flying with the AirEvac team in Demopolis. Even having seen the chopper in the air at a relatively close distance, I didn’t realize that it is not much – if any – bigger than my Ford Focus wagon. I didn’t actually ask the question, but my eyes told me that it was only designed for one patient, the in-flight nurse and the pilot. I can, at least, fit four grown men into my car. Well, it depends on just how “grown” they are.

Now, I have made three plane trips in my life. The first was to Minnesota, not long after I started at Gulf States Paper (now RockTenn). For the first time ever to be in the air, it was pleasant and nothing happened to make me not want to fly again. The next two trips would be to Seattle, Washington to visit my wife’s brother. The first of those caused me to never be able to eat BBQ potato chips ever again – but that’s a different story. On approach to Sea-Tac of the next trip, I had the privilege to watching another airplane coming directly at the plane we were on. Thankfully, our pilot dropped down so the other plane could go over us. It may not have actually been that close, but that’s exactly what my eyes saw. So, other than the occasional trampoline visit, I have kept my feet firmly planted on the ground.

I was told that the light weight of the chopper would make it susceptible to wind disturbances. I jokingly asked about running into things like bumblebees. Bumblebee strikes were nothing to worry about. But, they said we had to dodge buzzards. Great! I know how many of those we have around here. I was starting to wish I had actually read the waiver I had to sign to go for the ride. But, it was too late to back out.

After strapping in and getting my photo gear situated, I was as ready as I would ever be. To my relief, the lift off was buttery smooth. That put me at great ease and I was ready for my tour. The rest of the flight was both enjoyable and also seemed like work. Bending over to take photos out of that tiny little window was reminding me that I need to get back in the gym, play basketball or something to reduce that obstruction which was keeping me from easily getting to the window. It was also amazing to me that the lens hood on my camera lens was catching enough air that I had to bring it back inside the window to zoom it out.

We headed out north and made a loop around the Yacht Basin, came back over town and headed west, making a loop over the dam. From there, we headed out and around the SportsPlex and returned to Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital. It was over – just that quick, it seemed. Maybe it was just the man behind the wheel, but I’ll take a helicopter ride over a plane ride from now on.

I’d like to thank JM Hardwick, Todd Knight and Chris Gibbs for the conversation, information and a smooth first ride on a helicopter. (Yes, guys, if you ever get bored and want to take someone up for a joy ride, I submit my name to be put in the hat.) At this point, I will leave you with a few shots of Demopolis – from angles that many of us may never have the pleasure of experiencing. And, as part of the fun, I’m not going to label the photos. You have to decide what you are seeing. Some will be easier than others.