Getting to know Dave Crim

Residents in the area are quite familiar with the sound of the Parkview Samaritan flying overhead. The healthcare system’s two aircrafts are trusted vessels, used for saving lives and reaching people in their time of need. Just as important as the knowledgeable pilots and skilled medical staff, the team of mechanics that support our flight services department make it possible for us to provide care in emergency scenarios.

Leading the discerning group of technicians, Dave Crim has been working on aircrafts since the 1970s. As a long-respected team member, his appreciation for and dedication to the Samaritan program make him one of the critical thinking, meticulous, savvy People of Parkview.

Name: Dave Crim

Official title: Lead Mechanic, Parkview Samaritan

Describe your education and career journey:

  • June 1972 - August 1976 US Air Force Jet over 2 mechanic B52s and KC 135s.
  • February 1977 - July 1978 Southern Illinois University A&P School.
  • February 1979 hired on with Airwest Helicopters as a field mechanic doing seismic exploration in the Rocky Mountains.
  • 1979 - 1985 worked for several helicopter companies doing seismic work on various helicopter models, including Hughes 500D, Bell 206B 206L1 Aerospatiale 315 and 316 in remote locations all over the western United States.
  • 1986 started with Omniflight Helicopters as an EMS helicopter mechanic in Indianapolis, IN, BO105 and BK117 helicopters.
  • 1989 - present at Parkview with the AS365N1 and N2 helicopters.

Did you always know you wanted to work on helicopters?
As a kid, I wanted to be a pilot like my mother and father. When I enlisted in the Air Force I found out you needed a college education and you couldn’t have corrected vision, which I did, so I went for aircraft maintenance and ended up working on B52 bombers and KC135 tankers. When I was discharged, I went to Southern Illinois University for Aviation Maintenance to get my license to work in the civilian world.

I took a six month helicopter field course while at S.I.U. to give my girlfriend (now wife) time to decide whether she wanted to move to Colorado with me where my family is from.

In the Air Force I was running a crew or working with 16 other people. I wanted something I could do on my own in the western U.S. I was hired by Airwest helicopters to work remote seismic contracts, but I didn’t know if I would like it. Once I was in the field I found that the job was made for me. The challenge of keeping an aircraft running in all types of terrain and weather was thrilling. Once I decided that it was going to work out, we sold our house and bought a motorhome that we lived in and traveled all over the U.S. chasing helicopters for the next five years.

What’s unique about the Parkview flight program?
What impressed me when I arrived was how the whole hospital was behind the program. The people from management, both at Parkview and St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, Toledo, Ohio*, on down to medical crew has made this the nicest environment to work in. I’d also say working with Paul McConnell and Will Harnden, two great mechanics, who take on added tasks and responsibilities without being asked to do so and are so much fun to work with every day.

What does a typical day working on the aircraft involve?
A “normal day” starts with reviewing the aircraft flight logs to check flight time, inspections coming due, and any problems from the previous day’s flights. We then do our daily inspection of both helicopters, and address any issues raised by the medical crew or the pilots, or that we find during our inspection. Then we update our inspection due times and component total times, plan and schedule when our next maintenance will be and make sure we have the parts and tools to complete any projects. We then check the fueling stations and tank at the hospital. We check the loading dock for any parts that have arrived, and update inspection forms for the fuel system and other equipment. All parts received must be inventoried and stored at the hangar in Auburn.

Our normal maintenance inspections occur at 10, 25, 50, 100, and 300 hours of flight time. The big inspections occur at 600, 1,200, 1,800 and 2,400 hours. We also have calendar inspections at 6, 12, 18, 24, and 36 months. The big one is the 10-year inspection, when the whole helicopter is torn down and inspected, and every rubber hose in the aircraft is replaced. The fun part is tying all these inspections and component changes together so we have the least amount of downtime for the work required.

We are responsible for the entire aircraft and all of its systems. So we do landing gear, autopilot, avionics, electrical, navigation, hydraulics, fuel, engines, transmissions, rotor blades, sheet metal and composite, air conditioning and heat, liquid oxygen, and interior. We also check the navigation manufacturer’s websites for updates to databases and download and install them.

How do you spend your time when you aren’t working on the helicopter?
We communicate with our program managers, Chad Owen and Brett Steffen, and my boss, George Grimm, to keep them up to date on what major maintenance is coming up. We plan for major component changes and order parts and tools required. We track expiration dates of consumables and ordering replacements. Track certification due dates on calibrated equipment. Send and answer emails, constantly. Check the F.A.A. website for new ADs and requirements to remain airworthy status, and check manufacturers’ websites for updates to manuals and inspection requirements.

What are some of the unique challenges of being a helicopter mechanic? 
The definition of a helicopter is “10,000 parts flying in close formation closely followed by an oil leak,” so I’d say keeping the parts close together and making sure it doesn’t run out of oil. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) The unique challenge on EMS helicopters is what can start as a quiet day, can become a frenzy of trouble shooting, finding parts and chasing the helicopter.

What question do you get asked by the public most often?
“Are you a pilot?” No, my IQ tested too high, so I am the mechanic. (Joking.)

What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
Every day brings something new, and finding the solution is always a challenge. Also, the people that I work with and enjoy being with every day.

What makes you great at your job?
Not “great” but able. Thinking outside the box is overused, but it fits with how you have to approach this job and the challenges that go with it. Experience is a big help and I have a great group of people for support, from mechanics, pilots, and medical crew, technical support, on up to our program managers.

What is your mantra?
Keep it simple stupid. Don’t overthink the problem. Look for the simple solution. That does not always work, but it’s a starting point. Lead by example is another one.

What would you tell someone interested in going into this field?
It is not an easy or simple job. You cannot just put in your eight hours and go home and forget about it. You are responsible for the lives of everyone that flies in the aircraft and that the helicopter flies over. It’s a constant learning experience and offers a sense of accomplishment when you see your aircraft fly overhead. Being on call at all times is a strain, and some people don’t handle it well.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
That I hate working on cars.

Do you have any hobbies or things you like to do outside of work?
Golf, shooting sports, camping on our land in Colorado, and riding my motorcycle.

If you could tell people to read one book in their lifetime, which would it be?
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
Watch where you put your feet.

What would we find on your bucket list and what do you plan to check off next?
Seeing my daughters get married, playing golf at Pebble Beach, Cyprus Point, and one more time at Augusta National. My next check off will be when my daughter Kelsey gets married in August in Colorado.

If you have 5 minutes to relax, what do you do?
Read a book.

*Operation of the FAA Part-135 is provided by Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, Toledo, Ohio. Parkview Health owns the aircraft, but the pilots and mechanics who work on and operate the aircraft are employed by the certificate holder. This allows for strict FAA observation of the safe operations of Parkview Samaritan.

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