Female pilots take fight at Aspirus MedEvac
For the Wausau Times
WAUSAU – Megan Meier and Sarah Snell share a passion for flying and it started early in their lives.
“I was drawn to aviation and became increasingly interested in flying at a very young age,” Megan explained. “My first helicopter ride was at the age of seven and I have been hooked ever since.”
“I fell in love with flying at age 14 after taking a discovery flight in gliders (motorless aircraft) and experienced soaring up thermals, or warm, rising air currents, to stay aloft without needing an engine,” Sarah added.
That passion led them to a career as helicopter pilots in the air medical industry with Aspirus MedEvac. Megan flies MedEvac Air 1 based in Woodruff and Sarah pilots MedEvac Air 2 in Mosinee. Prior to flying a rotor-wing aircraft (helicopter), both Sarah and Megan learned how to fly an airplane. (fixed-wing aircraft).
“When I started my initial flight lessons for my fixed-wing certification at the Downtown Wausau Airport the Aspirus MedEvac helicopter was based on the premises,” said Megan. “Every time I saw the helicopter lift off, I was in awe, and I decided shortly thereafter that my career goal was to someday fly that helicopter for Aspirus and help others in need.”
“I became interested in helicopters when, as a commercial fixed-wing pilot, I spent a summer delivering fuel to remote utility helicopter operations in Alaska,” Sarah noted. “When I realized the helicopter pilots were having a lot more fun than I was I started working on my add-on ratings to shift my career track to rotary wing.”
Air medical pilots and crews transport critically ill patients from small or rural hospitals to trauma centers that provide a higher level of specialty care. They also support emergency medical services (EMS) at accident scenes as flying a critically injured adult or child from a rural location saves valuable time. No matter the emergency, when called to duty, these women are ready to help save lives.
“When the ‘tones’ arrive, we need to be ready to go to any location within about 200 miles of our base and arrive prepared for a large range of medical issues,” Sarah explained. “We have to consider all of the options and variables, then react quickly and safely without knowing what we will actually find when we get there.”
“I have an immediate feeling of purpose and opportunity to assist someone in need,” Megan replied. “I find myself dedicating all my attention with our team to do the best in our emergency efforts.”
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, just 8.4 percent of pilots are women. Megan and Sarah account for 25 percent of Aspirus MedEvac pilots and they relish the opportunity to be role models for anyone interested in aviation.
“Being a positive role model means that I pay forward the same consideration and opportunities to women starting out in the industry today,” Sarah said.
“If I can be a role model for young women that is wonderful, and I feel very honored if that is the case. However, I hope to be a role model and inspiration for young men as well,” added Megan. “Your life and success are a by-product of choices, motivation, hard work and self-worth. From that standpoint I urge all who have a dream to pursue it.”
Megan has been flying for 12 years and celebrated her one-year anniversary with Aspirus MedEvac in March. Sarah has been a pilot for 22 years and has flown MedEvac Air 2 for 18 months.