After seeing the local news coverage on the MEDSTAR suspension, I felt compelled to write this as this suspension directly affects your islands residences. As a taxpaying citizen of Lee County I am outraged by this suspension as I’m sure many of your residents are. The suspension of the MEDSTAR helicopter ambulance has been coming up frequently at my community's club house.
Through dialog with fellow residents I have learned that all three pilots that were terminated are Army veterans, with two believed to have just serving in Iraq! How could these pilots suddenly not been qualified or the “right mix” to fly for Lee County as stated by Chief Dickerson, but good enough to fight for our freedom? Is this how the Lee County Commissioners believe veterans should be treated as Chief Dickerson and Director Wilson have stated that all the commissioners were informed before this suspension occurred?
As a former aviation professor I can tell you there is no requirement by the FAA to terminate pilots because a director of operations is terminated; Lee County had other options – appoint an interim Chief Pilot until a new director is hired or they could have continued flying under Part 91 which does not require a director of operations; flying Part 135 for helicopter ambulance is optional and I bet MEDSTAR has operated under Part 91 for most of its history. When have you ever seen a commercial airline terminate all its pilots because they had a change in management? Naturally the answer is no, this does not happen.
MEDSTAR is your island’s access to higher level medical care not available locally. The private companies that offered to help are for-profit and can charge up to $20,000 per flight. This cost is not covered in Lee County taxes and none of the charges will be written off as Lee County does. Something does not make sense and I hope you get this information out to your residents and investigate this further.
Sincerely,Joseph P. Smith, PhDBonita
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