Phi Air Medical’s Air Evac 1

Matt Strauss was selected to photograph the Helipad at Phoenix Children’s Hospital because of the beautiful, polished look of his work with all kinds of aircraft. Because of the dangerous and unpredictable nature of shooting an actual trauma coming in on the helipad this was one of the very few shoots that we had to plan in advance.

The shoot was in planning for months, getting all the correct sign offs and permissions. Finally, in January 2013, I nailed down the date with the communications department and Matt worked like crazy to coordinate all of the details and logistics. First we needed the hospital’s ER department to approve the date and the use of the helipad. When we finally heard that they signed off on the date, we only had 5 days left to secure the helicopter and crew. Matt contacted Phi Air Medical’s Air Evac 1 based just a mile or two away at Sky Harbor Airport.

Matt’s request made its way to the inbox of Phi’s regional director who quickly green-lighted the project and Air Evac 1’s operations manager contacted Matt the very next day to talk about the shoot and details. Phi made this all come together very quickly. With the permission to shoot secured and having a helicopter and crew, we had to coordinate with the hospital’s security department regarding which helipad we were to use. We wanted to use the upper pad on the roof of the new hospital wing because of its superior view, but security wanted us on the parking structure pad to keep the main pad available for incoming traumas. We couldn’t argue with that.

Matt met with the Air Evac crew just two days before the shoot to talk about timing and approach patterns, what we’d be doing as they approached and what would happen after engine shutdown. He requested that they touch down on the pad at 4pm. With the logistics finalized, Matt focused his attention the weather.

Sunny AZ was in it’s 4th straight day of rain and wind, and this day was gonna be hit or miss with the weather. High winds were guaranteed, but whether it was going to be partly cloudy or full on hail storm was a roll of the dice….. and the dice of course landed on hail. And gusting winds. And freezing rain.

Until 3:45 pm, it was a gorgeous afternoon, and at 3:55 pm the winds were gusting with the hail and freezing rain started. It was perfect timing. As the helicopter entered their approach the residents were standing out in freezing rain on the pad we awaited their arrival. The wind from the helicopter’s rotors was pelting our poor residents with hail that must have been quite painful, but, you could not tell from their demeanor.

The worst of the weather only lasted 15 minutes, and the dark clouds gave way to a beautiful evening. The Air Evac crew lifted off at 5pm into an incredible sunset with great light. We cannot say thank you enough to everyone who contributed to a fantastic shoot: Matt and his assistant, the residents, and it couldn’t have happened without the great people at Phi Air Medical.
Matthew Strauss Photography
Matthew Strauss