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Medieval Sword for Helicopter Landing Zones

And Your Job Easier

— “C’mon down Life Flight . . . everything is good!”

Have you ever heard these words?

Maybe you’ve heard it flying over a Landing Zone (LZ)?

Or maybe you’ve said these words looking up at a medical helicopter circling the landing zone you and your team set up?

Whether you hear it from the air, or say it from the ground, makes no difference. Firefighter or Flight Crew –we’re all on the same team, and the point is the same for Flight Safety Net air crews and ground crews.

“C’mon down (insert air medical service name)” is not a landing zone briefing.

It’s okay to say the words. But it’s not okay to substitute the words for a landing zone briefing –or accept these words as a landing zone briefing.

When Seconds Count . . . It Still Takes a Minute or Two

I know what you’re thinking . . . because I’m thinking it too (kind of).

But what about the patients? They need our help. They need us to land right now!


The patients need you to maintain safety at all times.

  • The patients need you to keep them safe
  • The patients need you to keep your own crew safe
  • The patients need you to keep the air and ground crews you’re working with safe

Then, and only then, can the patient get the attention and treatment they need for the given circumstances and situation.

Nobody can do more. Nobody expects more. Not even the patients.

So how do firefighters and flight crew get this done safely?

My answer may seem anti-climatic. Because my answer isn’t original. It’s just a different spin on what you’re already doing.

Follow a checklist.

Checklists work.

Checklists save time and keep us from forgetting important stuff.

Time to Get Medieval

Here is a checklist to help you with medical helicopter landing zones – from the air or ground.

Just remember to bring your S.W.O.R.D.

S – Size, surface, slope

W – Winds, what direction are the winds coming from

O – Obstacles, where are the wires, cell phone towers, hockey nets, etc

R – Route, best way in and out of landing zone

D – Double check everything.

Every landing zone is different.

Every flight crew and fire department is different.

So you can (and should) modify the checklist to fit your needs. It’s not a “one size fits all” type thing. It’s a guide, and an easy memory trick to help you the next time you’re circling over a landing zone or setting one up. So the next time you hear, or say “c’mon down,” you’ll be ready.

Just remember to bring your sword.

Clear Skies & Tailwinds


What tips or tricks do you have to keep your local flight crews and firefighters safe?  Tell us in the comments section below.

Troy Shaffer
Troy Shaffer

About the Author: Troy is an Air Medical Career Expert passionate about a team approach to improving air medical safety from the ground up. Troy is a former Army medic, Army pilot, Coast Guard pilot and EMS pilot. Troy has taught hundreds of wannabe flight medics, flight nurses and EMS pilots the exact steps needed to launch air medical careers.

    39 replies to "How One Medieval Weapon Can Make Your Medical Helicopter Landing Zones 500% Safer"

    • Frank Klein

      Frankly, I enjoyed that!

    • Frank Johnson

      Most important? Situational awareness..hands down!

    • Ramon Inge

      I’m applying for a flight nurse position. I don’t think they any African Americans working for them. Do I say anything about that to help my chances of getting the job or do I leave that out?

      • Troy Shaffer


        I think it’s a matter of personal choice. All helicopter operators and health systems in the United States follow EOE laws. My personal opinion is that your race will make no difference when applying for a flight nurse job. I hope this helps you. Good luck and let us know how you make out.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

      • Scott Williams


        Thank you for your service. The only thing I will say is this: Will race play a part in providing professional service? That truly is what the patients deserve.

    • Phil Holdstock

      Not have the helicopter there the zone would be much safer 😉

      But really common sense look for obvious hazards and clean up any thing that might be ingested or turned into a misdial and create a clear safe zone to stand in where you are visible to the crew

      • Troy Shaffer


        Very good points. Thank you for sharing.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • John Kirk

      Somewhat like to old adage that the secret to good retail is location, location, location. In the case of helicopter LZ’s number 1 is wires, wires, and wires!

    • Troy Shaffer


      I never heard that analogy before. But I like it (a lot). Thank you for sharing it.

      Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • SaferAviator

      Excellent way to remember all those things you need for the brief. I’d add just two broad things:

      1) Ensure you share your ingress and egress plan with ground personnel so they know what to expect.
      2) Include the medical pros in the back when you train and on missions to clear the zone going in and coming out. More trained eyes means more opportunity to see the gotchas in an unprepared zone.

      Fly Safe,


      • Troy Shaffer


        Great points!

        I especially agree with including the crew in the back. Team is the quickest way to safety and success. Thank you for sharing your expertise and knowledge.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Amanda Moon

      OldSalem FireRescue

      • Troy Shaffer


        Thanks for sharing with your fire department.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • MJ Braaksma

      Advice for future readers: No medieval weapon is actually used. The weapon is only utilized as a acronym. I’m disappointed.

      • Troy Shaffer


        Remember, air medical are life savers, not life takers. Thanks for commenting. Sorry to disappoint.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Dave Lippert

      Great info Shamar Bailey

    • Chris Starkey

      is it a crossbow to keep people from messing with your L.Z. lol

      • Troy Shaffer


        Remember, air medical folks are life savers, not life takers. Thanks for commenting.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Michael Moran

      I was sad to see it was SWORD. I was hoping it was a catapult. I do prefer better communication with flight crews, but I still think that we need to use more catapults….

      • Troy Shaffer


        Communication is one of the keys to success when it comes to keeping air medical safe. The other pillars to success are teamwork, common sense, an leadership.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Mark Kelly

      Nice, I can definitely apply this.

      • Troy Shaffer


        You’re very welcome.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Carolyn Flaherty

      Thanks for the info! Important Heli sense!

      • Troy Shaffer


        You’re very welcome!

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Mike Hasty

      And if all else fails, you can use the sword to stab all the stupid people screwing up your LZ.

      • Troy Shaffer


        Nobody ever “screws up” a helicopter landing zone on purpose. We’ll stick to using the SWORD as the acronym described in the article.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Michael T. Long

      Sweet, I’m gonna bring my siege tower on the next one!

      • Troy Shaffer


        Interesting. Is a “siege tower” a Minecraft game thing?

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Jeph Bae

      I also use a trebuchet to clear an LZ.

      • Troy Shaffer


        That sounds interesting.

        Clear Skies and Tailwinds

    • Richard Smith

      And don’t tell the ex-military pilot “the LZ is hot” in an excited tone

      • Troy Shaffer


        I know ex-military pilots will appreciate your advice.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Irvin

      Thank you for sharing.

    • nanoo

      We’re a gaggle of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community.
      Your site provided us with helpful information to get started and work on. Thank you.
      You have performed an impressive activity and our entire community will be thankful to you.

      • Troy Shaffer


        Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad the information on FlightSafetyNet helped you.

        Clear Skies and Tailwinds

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