KODIAK, Alaska – The Helicopter Association International announced their “Salute to Excellence” award winners for 2010 recognizing a Coast Guard Kodiak Air Station HH-65 helicopter crew for the Eurocopter Golden Hour award which will be presented at the HAI “Salute to Excellence” banquet Feb. 22, 2010 in Houston. One of the recipients, Petty Officer 3rd Class Blaize Potts, is a Bluffton native.
Lt. Jason Smith, pilot, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Blaize Potts, aviation maintenance technician, stationed in Kodiak along with Lt. Greg Gedemer, pilot, and Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Thiessen, aviation survival technician, now stationed at Barber’s Point, Hawaii, won this award for their heroic rescue of a crewman from the fishing vessel Kodiak suffering from a severe head injury, 90 miles west of Cold Bay, in blizzard conditions Jan. 30, 2009.
“I'm happy to have helped execute a mission that resulted in the saving of a life,” said Potts. “It is a very rewarding feeling.” Faced with low clouds, limited visibility and severe ice conditions, the helicopter crew navigated around 90 miles of islands and rocks covered in clouds and snow using GPS and radar to transit safely to the fishing vessel.
Once on the scene, the crew faced the challenge of hoisting the crewman from the pitching and rolling vessel. With high antennas and rigging on the Kodiak, the hoist had to occur 75 to 100 feet above the vessel.
On the first hoisting attempt, the rescue swimmer was lowered, but due to blizzard conditions and the position of the aircraft he hit the vessel’s crane before aborting. The helicopter crew then found a safer hoisting location away from the crane and other obstacles. The second hoist was successful and after rescuing the crewman, the helicopter crew battled blizzard-like conditions to transfer the patient to Cold Bay emergency medical personnel.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Blaize Potts is a 2001 Bluffton High School graduate. His family no longer lives in the Bluffton area, but Potts considers himself to have been raised here. His father, Tim Potts now lives in Dunedin, Florida. His mother, Anita Richard lives in Maumee, Ohio. He also has a sister, Lauren Potts who lives in Columbus, Ohio. He says he is enjoying his time at his third unit, in Alaska, as he did his time at his first and second units, Honor Guard, Washington, D.C. and Airstation Miami, Florida, respectively.
“I try to keep in contact with friends as best as possible in Bluffton, but for everyone else that continues to make Bluffton a great small town, I wish them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I would like to visit again sometime this summer as I haven't been home in almost three years,” said Potts.
The “Salute to Excellence” Awards program, now in its 49th year, recognizes outstanding achievement performed by individuals or companies in the international helicopter community. For information about the 2010 “Salute to Excellence” Awards banquet and ceremony, visit www.rotor.com
The removal of the stoplight at the corner of College and Main Street in downtown Bluffton has caused a fair amount of confusion and disagreement within the community. The streetscape project, which spanned from mid-July to nearly November, improved the aesthetic appeal of our streets and, supposedly, the overall function of downtown. The disappearance of the first traffic signal on Main Street for those traveling Northbound, has left many around town with questions. Why would, seemingly, the most important traffic signal on Main Street be removed? Bluffton is somewhat unique in respect to the fact that the Village’s high school borders Main Street and the two feeder schools, elementary and middle, are not far behind along side streets. To add to it, the school corporation’s athletic facilities are located on the other side of Main Street, requiring students and fans to cross the most traveled street in town…with no traffic signal to guide them. Still, we’re perplexed, thus our investigation into the removal was launched. “We would obviously like the light to still be there,” said Bluffton Exempted Village Schools superintendent, Greg Denecker. “For the safety of our students, and the use of our athletic facilities on the other side of the street, we would like the light back.” The superintendent has written two letters to officials of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s District 1 Office. The District 1 Office serves Allen, Defiance, Hancock, Hardin, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert, and Wyandot counties. Denecker has received a response to the first letter, sent prior the streetscape’s beginning and spoke with District Deputy Director Leonard E. Brown Monday about replacing the light. “I had a phone conversation with District Deputy Director Leonard Brown and he was responsive to idea that the intersection needs to be looked at again,” said Denecker at the December school board meeting held Dec. 14. The reasons and the steps that led to the demise of the stoplight seem to be clouded in controversy. The first step was a study performed by an independent consultant, Poggemeyer Design Group. The study revealed that in fact all of the traffic lights located in downtown are unnecessary according to ODOT standards. The two lights that remain, at Elm and Cherry Streets, were spared because they pose a sight vision problem due to buildings being close on either side of the intersections. The light at College Street was removed because there are no buildings to hinder the vision of drivers crossing the intersection. The study, completed by Poggemeyer Design Group, was paid for by the Villge of Bluffton upon request from ODOT. “We were told that from time to time studies must be done to establish warrant for traffic lights,” said Village administrator Jamie Mehaffie. “According to the manual that ODOT uses the light at College and Main is not warranted.” A representative from the Ohio Department of Transportation said a study has to be completed when government money is spent on a project, such as the streetscape project that took place in downtown Bluffton. ODOT maintains that the decision to remove the traffic signal was an agreement between Village administrators and ODOT officials. “A traffic light located on a state highway is required to have a permit,” said an ODOT official. “That particular light was found to be unwarranted, and in accordance with Ohio law, was removed.” Have thoughts about the removal of the traffic signal at the corner of College and Main Streets? Letters to the editor may be sent to email@example.com or 101 N. Main Street, Bluffton, Ohio.
Those visiting the Bluffton Flying Service will see new faces mixed with some familiar ones.
A group of three partners, two pilots and one mechanic, assumed the leasing responsibilities of the Bluffton Flying Service on November 1, 2009 under the name Pegasus Aviation Group, LLC.
“The transition into the building was smooth,” said operator Mike Conrad. “We were able to begin moving in the last days of October.”
The new operators offer a variety of experience and skills with varying backgrounds. James Helkey, of Tiffin, was a mechanic in the Marines and worked with Life Flight since the early part of this decade. He also has a business degree from Tiffin University. Mike Conrad, of Findlay, has been a private pilot since 1993, worked for the Ohio Guard, and has been with Life Flight since 2003. He graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Nick Vance, of Findlay, has been with Life Flight since 2002 and has also worked as a pilot with the Ohio Guard.
Life Flight planes are currently housed at the Bluffton Flying Service. Fuel sales and plane maintenance are the major revenue generators. In the future, the new operators are considering offering chartered flights and helicopter maintenance.
The three-person team of new operators will speak this Friday, December 11, 2009 at 7:30 a.m. at the Chamber of Commerce Meeting.
Bluffton Flying Service is located at 1080 Navajo Drive, Bluffton.
Bluffton Hospital Wins National Patient Satisfaction Award
Bluffton Hospital has received the 2009 Press Ganey Summit Award, a national award given to health care facilities that sustain the highest level of customer satisfaction for three or more consecutive years.
Bluffton Hospital was one of only 32 inpatient hospitals in the United States to receive the 2009 award. According to Press Ganey Associates, Inc., Bluffton Hospital has ranked in the 99th percentile nationally for inpatient satisfaction for more than three consecutive years.
"Our associates have made a commitment to service excellence and hold themselves and others accountable to that commitment,” said Bill Watkins, Bluffton Hospital's CAO.
“It is gratifying to see that our patients' feedback and the Press Ganey scores reflect the efforts we've made since 2005." The Press Ganey Summit Award is the health care satisfaction industry’s most coveted symbol of achievement.
To learn more about what Bluffton Hospital did to achieve this honor, visit the Bluffton Hospital Summit Awards Details page on the Press Ganey Web site.