2 Air Evac Lifeteam pilots celebrate milestones | Events
SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) - Two pilots for the Air Evac Lifeteam base in Sikeston recently celebrated milestones in their careers.
George Smith was presented with his 2,000th flight wings and Fred Finnell was presented with his 3,000th flight wings.
Air Evac Lifeteam provides emergency air medical service to people who need it most, those living in rural America. Smith and Finnell are two of four pilots at the Sikeston base. Jim Damron and Jeff Kight also fly for Air Evac Lifeteam in Sikeston. Flight nurse Chuck Groshong commented on all of the pilots.
“I cannot say enough about all our pilots, George, Fred, Jim, and Jeff,” he said. “They are all quality men, pilots and partners. There are no other pilots we could ever feel safer flying with than them. Thank you for recognizing George and Fred for their great accomplishments. That's a lot of prayers answered and souls saved.”
Smith, a U.S. Army veteran, began flying for Air Evac Lifeteam in 1998, while he was still with the Army National Guard.
“I’ve always enjoyed the Air Evac Lifeteam mission,” he said. “I flew medevac in the military, and that’s always been my favorite mission.”
Smith, an Egypt Mills resident, was on active duty for seven years and in the Army National Guard for 28 years. He retired from the Guard in 2007.
“George is a family man, a dedicated father and husband,” Groshong said. “He is a man of few words, but is honest and loyal. He sees great value in his friends and will do anything for them. George is a hard worker, and makes all of us feel safe and confident – as do all of our pilots.”
Fred Sandegren, regional director of flight operations for Air Evac Lifeteam, said both men have reached great milestones in their careers.
“They each have tremendous dedication, and take ownership in their base,” Sandegren said. “It’s unusual that you have pilots who stay with one employer for that many years, and that says something about Air Evac Lifeteam.”
Fred Finnell said the Sikeston pilots have about 60 years combined tenure.
“We have flown thousands and thousands of patients,” Finnell said. “We have a good strong safety culture at the base and we work well together.”
Finnell has been with Air Evac Lifeteam for nearly 22 years. He flew helicopters in eight of his 12 years with the Arkansas Army National Guard. Finnell also served as a deputy sheriff with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department in Memphis.
“Back then the helicopter pilot market was filled with Vietnam-era pilots,” Finnell said. “Being an EMS pilot was a coveted job, but they were difficult to find. I heard about an upstart company in West Plains, Mo.”
Finnell said he had his reservations about going to work for Air Evac Lifeteam, because it was such a young company.
“A lot of times those younger companies struggle to make ends meet, and they may push the limits of safety in order to get more flights,” he said. “I always said if that happened to me I would leave the company. I’m still here. In 22 years I’ve never been pushed to do anything I didn’t think was right.”
Finnell said he still enjoys flying helicopters for Air Evac Lifeteam.
“I like the fact that when you go into work you never know what the day will hold,” he said. “It’s not like flying tours. I may end up landing on a barge in the middle of the Mississippi River. And I get to help people in the process. I like that this matters…that I make a difference.”
Air Evac Lifeteam is the largest independently-owned and operated membership-based air medical service in the United States. For more information about Air Evac Lifeteam, call 1-800-793-0010 or visit www.lifeteam.net.
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