A veteran helicopter pilot with 50 years of experience is retiring from Tristate Care Flight in Parker, AZ.
Randy West has been with the medical helicopter service since it opened here 12.5 years ago, flying patients in and out of the Parker area from the base at La Paz Regional Hospital.
Growing up on a small farm, Randy says he never imagined he’d become a pilot. It wasn’t until joining the U.S. military that an opportunity arose to go to flight school. His helicopter experience was honed during the Vietnam War.
After Vietnam and almost 6 years in the military, Randy flew the Los Angeles County Fire Department tank and then spent 8 years flying for the Bureau of Land Management in Boise, ID during the summer fire season.
“I learned a lot from flying fires,” Randy said. “It’s good experience landing in unprepared areas. Some places upriver can be pretty hairy to land, but those fire jobs prepared me for this.”
Randy has averaged around 200 flight hours per year here in Parker since 2003. La Paz Regional’s Chief Nursing Officer Maria Martinez says he will be missed.
“I was privileged to work with Randy for about two years when I worked for Care Flight as a flight nurse few years ago,” she said. “He is the best pilot and I always felt safe when I worked with him. His experience started during the Vietnam War, so he was respected and admired by all that got the chance to fly with him. Randy has an amazing personality that draws people to him, he genuinely loves people, and he has a great sense of humor. We will miss him greatly here at La Paz Regional Hospital.”
Helicopters are often used for transporting Parker area patients with medical emergencies to hospitals in Phoenix, Las Vegas or metro Southern California, as they can travel at an estimated 120 mph, roughly twice the speed of a ground ambulance. Helicopters allow approximately 38% more of the population access to trauma center care within the timeframe for the best clinical outcome.