The medical helicopter landing pad atop Spectrum Health in Downtown Grand Rapids, MI has not had a helicopter landing since a spectacular fiery crash that occurred on May 29,2008.
The top of the hospital has hardly been quiet however these past months. The hospital had to repair walls and the roof, added a larger metal pad atop the actual roof, added safety stairs to avoid another situation where an evacuating crew had to decide whether to sit on duct work adjacent to the roof (see photo) and endure the heat or jump several floors (thankfully just as they were deciding firefighters arrived to calm the blaze), it has wind turbulence suppression and fire suppression systems built in.
Earlier in the week the hospital and AeroMed decided to suspend training that was scheduled to begin on Monday. Yesterday, November 18,2008, workmen were observed atop the hospital removing a number of larger towers from the elevated shaft above the helipad. Today there is only one smaller tower with antenna and the wind sock that are significantly above the roof line. It was believed to be a tail rotor striking a guide wire from the larger tower that has now been removed that caused the original crash.
During the afternoon the helicopter came and went many times, touching down for moments and then departing. It usually landed on the north pad. A second pad was added as part of the current improvements. On at least one occasion the helicopter landed on the north pad, hopped to the south pad and then departed once again.
This accident is part of the larger debate on the benefits versus risks of medical helicopter use. Obviously in this case, given the investment in the new helicopter pad and the resumption of training flights today, the answer from this organization is that they plan to continue the practice of medical helicopter service.