DIXON – The Dixon Public Safety Building got a flyover Tuesday morning.
A REACT helicopter from Rockford Health System was in town for training with paramedics from the Dixon Fire Department.
After the training, which took place inside the Public Safety Building, the helicopter lifted off from the adjacent parking lot, flew west and then back over the lot – and nearly 2 dozen people – before heading northeast to Rockford, a 20-minute trip from Dixon.
The fire department's paramedics and other personnel reviewed landing zone set-up and familiarized themelves with medical helicopter procedures, Fire Chief Tim Shipman said.
The fire department usually transports patients directly to the hospital, Shipman said, but the department might have to respond to a helicopter crash or set up a helicopter rescue.
The React helicopter flies about two mission a day, said Flight Nurse Tom Walsh, and covers much of northern Illinois, north to Madison, Wis., and into Iowa.
It can fly to Peoria, but would need to refuel before returning.
"The No. 1 thing we do is rapid transport – getting patients from Point A to Point B," Walsh said.
A 20-minute trip in a helicopter, compared to a longer trip in an ambulance, can make the difference between life and death, he said.
The helicopter is equipped with advanced radar technology, Walsh said, which allows it to see cell phone towers and other elements while flying.
The helicopter needs a landing zone at least 100 feet by 100 feet, making the Public Safety Building's parking lot just large enough, said Capt. Clark Pollard, a retired military pilot who was a co-pilot for Marine One and flew for former President George W. Bush.
As the helicopter prepared to take off Tuesday morning, the gathered crowd took photos and videos on cell phones. The wind from the propeller and the sound picked up as the helicopter took off.
After its flyover, the helicopter quickly disappeared into the sky on its way back to Rockford.