Air Beat Magazine: May - June 2003


May - June 2003

Pioneering An Evolution In Kansas:
Wichita Police Department's Air Section

The Kansas Highway Patrol’s Aircraft Units

Classrooms, Conversations & Camaraderie: 
A Conference Sneak Preview

Above & Beyond:
Sheriff's Pilot Rescues Man Over Niagara Falls

Expand Your Safety Knowledge & Networking

Airmen vs. Kidney Stones

Pioneering An Evolution In Kansas:
Wichita Police Department's Air Section

Text and photos by Dave Higdon

Only twelve other departments in the country match the longevity of the Wichita Police Department's Air Section, giving the unit a background that helps it fulfill its mission for this city of nearly 400,000. Wichita is a diverse community with an increasingly diverse population and business base. Home to four major aviation companies - Beechcraft, Bombardier/Learjet, Cessna and Boeing Wichita - Wichita is widely referred to as the "Air Capital of the World".

Advanced medical facilities, manufacturing, scientific and technology companies also populate Wichita. And, all of them have their own expectations about public safety and individual security. Throughout its history, the Air Section has proven to be an efficient contributor to the public safety and well being of the region surrounding Wichita, in which another 100,000 people live and work.

Experience Counts

In the 33 years since its creation, the WPD Air Section evolved in its experience level, depth, fleet and mission diversity. But at no time has the section's officers lost sight of their primary charge: to support the officer working the street below.

Not surprisingly, Air Section officers easily relate to that primary mission, thanks to their common backgrounds as street officers trained to fly helicopters. While some departments take pilots and train them to be aerial law-enforcement officers, Wichita uses an approach 180 degrees out of phase, training street officers to be law-enforcement pilots.

According to Lt. Paul Shields and his crew, this approach gives Air Section officers a perspective to the job unique to officers who have "been there, done that, down on the street."

"We are much more able to relate to the risks and hazards of whatever the officer faces below us," he explained. "And we can combine that perspective with the broader vision only available from aloft to the benefit of the task at hand."

Officers tapped for the Air Section must first serve a minimum of two years on patrol before entering training to fly as a non-pilot aerial observer. The time spent as a non-pilot observer is generally at least two more years before entering training to become a helicopter pilot.

By the time the officer becomes eligible for pilot training, the candidate officer has at least five years on the job. "Just as you come to appreciate the sight of the helicopter overhead when you're on the street, we bring with us an appreciation of the risks and stresses facing the officers working the street when we arrive overhead," explained Officer Justin Jackson, the Air Section's sole non-pilot - at the moment.

Added Dave Doleislager, a six-year veteran of the Air Section, "Many a time we've been approached by an officer we assisted to hear how much better they felt when they heard us overhead. We understand that reaction because we've all experienced ourselves."

Proven Performance

From the start, the Wichita Police Air Unit operated low-cost piston-powered helicopters, most recently a single Schweizer 300C - one of the six percent of police departments flying piston helicopters.

Throughout its 33-year history, the Wichita P.D. Air Section focused its efforts on enhancing the capabilities of the officers on the street. "We're here to support their efforts and expand their capabilities by expanding their abilities in several areas," explained Lt. Shields, a veteran of two stints in the Air Section. "We are also available to other entities both within the city and beyond the city limits," Lt. Shields added.

Wichita encompasses more than 140 square miles of southcentral Kansas; the immediate metro area takes in another 500-plus square miles. And as one of only three law-enforcement aerial units in the entire 86,000-square miles of Kansas, the Wichita Police Air Section frequently responds to needs beyond the city limits.

Those needs range from the typical - maintaining surveillance on a fleeing suspect so that officers on the street can disengage from a potentially deadly high-speed chase - to the atypical, such as supporting emergency services organizations after natural and man-made disasters. Flying environmental officials, bomb-squad members, even disaster officials, can be part of the mix.

The Mission Ahead

New times bring new demands on the Air Section's officers and hardware. The department needed to continue evolving, given that the demands began to exceed the capabilities of the Air Section's fleet of piston helicopters in recent years.

So, in 2002, after years of work, research and recommendations, the WPD finally won approval to move up to turbine power. And the move finally took place in late April, when staff of the Wichita Police Air Section accepted delivery of a brand new ship - an MD Helicopters Inc. 500E. With the delivery of that new platform, the Wichita Air Section brings capabilities and utility previously unavailable to the city, as well as to the regional clientele the Section regularly serves.

"The MD500E allows us to better execute our missions across the board," said Dolieslager, a six-year veteran pilot in the Air Section. While proven as a workhorse platform for the WPD over the years, the 300C is limited in many ways. It has only two seats, a low payload, and limited speed.

"The MD500E improves on our capabilities in almost every area," explained Officer Jeff Weinman, another of the unit's pilots. With five seats available, the MD500E allows the unit to take along other officers or officials without requiring that the observer officer stay on the ground. Similarly, the MD500E provides payload capacity that can translate into carrying another person and equipment that may be needed quickly at a distant location.

The new MD500E offers the ability to keep up with suspects fleeing upwind, thanks to a speed advantage of about 40 percent. The 300C offered a high cruise speed of only 87 knots, sometimes far too little to cope with Kansas winds that can routinely approach 40 knots at relatively low altitudes. When ground speeds drop below 60 mph, even a suspect cruising at the legal speed limit of Wichita's east-west Kellogg highway can pull away from the 300C. With a high cruise speed approaching 140 knots - 160 mph - even an upwind-bound suspect will struggle to lose the MD500E.

"No longer will we be in a position in which a suspect heads west at high speed into headwinds that prevent us from keeping him in sight," noted Jackson. The speed difference also figures into response times, particularly when that call is upwind.

"There's really no aspect of our work that isn't improved by the 500E," said Lt. Shields. "It takes what we've already demonstrated and improves on it and allows us to demonstrate new capabilities, as well. That makes it a win-win decision for the people we serve. We just get to use the tool on their behalf, and for that, we're grateful for the opportunity."

The Kansas Highway Patrol’s Aircraft Units

The letters on the Kansas Highway Patrol’s patch are gold and blue like the colors of Kansas’ famous wheat and wide open skies. Twelve Kansas troopers regularly fly through these big blue skies to help enforce the law. Though primarily a traffic enforcement agency, the Kansas Highway Patrol does its share of criminal interdiction, and its trooper-pilots often assist with surveillance, searches, and investigations as well as transportation and traffic enforcement. From spotting wanted criminals and wildlife poachers, to transporting blood and medicine, to finding missing children, the aircraft unit is vital to the agency’s performance.

The Patrol first began using aircraft in traffic enforcement in 1957. Borrowing the Kansas Turnpike Authority’s aircraft, three troopers successfully demonstrated during their off-duty hours how traffic violators could be spotted from the air and reported to ground units that would spring into action.

For instance, crew members can observe motorists running stop signs, passing in no-passing zones, and following too closely. In addition, using stopwatches and symbols painted on the roadways, crew members can calculate motorists’ speeds. In 1965, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in Kansas vs. Cook that such use of aircraft in traffic enforcement is lawful and that reporting violations to officers on the ground to issue citations is modern and necessary.

The Patrol purchased its first aircraft in 1961 from the Turnpike Authority. Since then, the agency has gradually built a fleet to cover the state’s 81,815 square miles and to serve its approximately 2.7 million people. Today, this medium-sized state law enforcement agency (with around 510 certified law enforcement officers and 270 support personnel) operates nine aircraft: four helicopters, two Cessna fixed-wing 182 planes, two Cessna fixed-wing 206 planes, and a Raytheon King Air 350.

The 12 regular pilots and the three administrative/emergency pilots are troopers first and foremost, and they earned their pilot’s licenses independently. Until the mid-1970s, the aircraft and crews made up their own division within the Patrol while covering specific regions of the state. Now the pilots, helicopters, and planes are assigned to the Patrol’s troops and under the supervision of the troop commanders.

Air crews are available 24 hours a day to transport people, the Patrol’s police service dogs, and life-saving blood and organ donations. They also track drug buys, vehicle and foot chases, and missing persons, and they search for crashed vehicles. Thanks to Forward Looking Infrared, or FLIR, systems and very strong spotlights, some of the aircraft can track during the day or night. They frequently work with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to find poachers and with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to find methamphetamine labs and marijuana grows.

The Executive Aircraft crew, an important part of the Patrol’s Protective Services Unit, uses a 2001 Raytheon King Air 350 to transport and protect state, national, and foreign dignitaries. When possible, the Executive Aircraft crew assists with other state agencies’ missions, such as the University of Kansas’ clinic and continuing education outreach program, the Department of Commerce and Housing’s industrial development program, and the Department of Transportation’s highway building and oversight program.

You can see more pictures of the Kansas Highway Patrol’s aircraft and learn more about the agency’s mission and operations at

Classrooms, Conversations & Camaraderie: 
A Conference Sneak Preview

By Jim Di Giovanna, Education Coordinator

Preparing the schedule for this year’s conference has been an unusual challenge, as many of our long-time expert instructors have either been activated into a military role or have been reassigned out of their previous aviation units. I am pleased to tell you that many new, highly qualified instructors have stepped up to the plate, assuring that your courses and classes will once again be of superb quality.

New in this year’s pre-conference schedule are two outstanding courses that will be trendsetters for professional development: the Aircraft Accident Investigations Course and Aviation Safety Officer Course. A brief description of these and all of the pre-conference offerings is contained in this article as well as a summary of the Main Conference classes. The APSA Education Committee is committed to providing APSA members with current, relevant and interesting professional courses.

Aircraft Accident Investigations Course
In response to several requests from our membership on this subject, we have contacted two experts in this field who have developed this introductory course in aircraft accident investigation for first responders. Mr. Greg Feith, former NTSB Investigator and internationally-recognized expert in this field will partner with retired Sgt. Jim Shuler from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to present this course.

This introductory course is designed to provide insights into aircraft accident investigations, whether the accident is internal or involving general aviation, and guidance to first responders responsible for accident scene preservation. Our instructors will explain the investigative process including scene management, responsibilities of federal accident investigation agencies, investigative techniques and tips on setting up internal accident investigation teams. This class promises to be one of the most valuable offered by APSA. Maximum enrollment is 50.

Aviation Safety Officer Course
In response to the requests of members for more hands-on training in safety, APSA Safety Coordinator Jay Fuller has solicited the assistance of several aviation safety experts in the development of this new course. A cornerstone is the Federal Transportation Safety Institute, responsible for providing aviation safety training and program development for federal General Service Agency aviation departments and the U. S. Army Aviation Safety Center at Ft. Rucker, Alabama.

Different from the Command Safety Officer Course, this course is designed for the line unit safety officer whose responsibility it is to manage the unit commander’s safety program. This course will provide the "tools" for the unit safety officer’s "tool box" on safety program oversight, implementation of policy, regulatory compliance, safety inspections and audits and establishment of effective safety councils. Not a management course, but it meets the immediate needs of line level officer assigned the responsibility of managing the unit’s safety program. Maximum enrollment is 40.

Grants / Proposal Writing Workshop
Last year’s favorable responses to Mr. Richard Condon have led us to bring him back to provide another workshop on Grant Funding and Application. If your agency is contemplating grant applications, you will want to attend this workshop. The Office of Homeland Security has made funding available this year for state and local law enforcement agencies to prepare for and combat domestic terrorism. Mr. Condon will also provide insights into grant applications that may be available for aviation related technology.

This grant-writing workshop offers the most comprehensive resource development training available for public safety professionals. The workshop is conducted throughout the United States at local, state and federal public safety training academies and other training facilities. Using instruction and a detailed step-by-step manual with examples, students are taught the methods and tricks-of-the-trade used by experts to obtain grants and other assistance for programs, equipment, facilities and other critical needs. The course will benefit both beginning and experienced grant writers, management or public officials concerned with resource development or anyone seeking to increase resources for public safety and other community needs. Maximum enrollment is 75.

Night Vision Goggle Course
Also back by popular demand is Mr. Jimmy Hardin and his team of experts from the U. S. Border Patrol, offering a two-day NVG orientation course. The class offers an introductory course in NVG operations including training and qualification requirements, aircraft modifications, equipment familiarization and mission application/limitations. The course covers all of the essentials of Night Vision Device use including theory, program development, and maintenance issues, as well as pragmatic tips and personal anecdotes. This NVG Course will take you from basic introduction to advanced theory and practical use with specific emphasis on airborne law enforcement roles. Sign up early for this one! This was one of the most popular pre-conference offerings presented by APSA last year. Maximum enrollment is 50.

Air Crew Operations Course
The ACOC has been significantly changed this year to focus more on patrol tactics and techniques. The Air Crew Operations Course is intended to provide all aircrew members with the skills and information necessary for safe and successful completion of the airborne law enforcement mission. This is essential and applicable to both pilots and observers. The course won’t tell you what an aircraft is and how to locate the prop, but it will tell you how to use it for airborne law enforcement. Learn how to effectively deal with passengers, ground officers, and other crewmen. Find out what specialized equipment is available, how to properly use the most common gear, and how to direct a scene from the air. This class is an essential stepping-stone in your professional development. Maximum enrollment is 50.

Unit Managers’ Course
As the 13-year annual favorite of the pre-conference course, this continues to be a must-attend for newly assigned unit managers. This course has been refreshed to address current issues in aviation unit management. It is designed to provide both the new and experienced aviation unit manager and supervisors the latest tools, tips, and techniques to effectively manage their organization. Specific topics include personnel selection, training, budget and record keeping, Public Aircraft issues, pursuit management, aviation maintenance, safety, and SOP’s - all geared toward what the manager and supervisor must know. Maximum enrollment is 40.

Command Safety Officer Course
This course could be considered Phase II of the Unit Managers’ Course, equally a must for both the newly assigned and the seasoned veteran of aviation unit command experience. This course is provided by the team of Craig Geis and Mike Alvarado, internationally recognized experts in the field of aviation safety and systems management. The CSC provides advanced training in aviation safety for command, management, and supervisory level personnel in airborne law enforcement units including both flight and ground aviation issues. Find out why you need a good aviation safety program and what it can do for your overall unit program. Covers theory, legal issues, risk management, and establishing, continuing and funding a safety program. Maximum enrollment is 25.

Airborne Thermal Imagery
This course is designed by and for APSA members to meet the needs of airborne thermal imaging rather than trying to translate ground-based training. Without being vendor-specific, the course covers everything the user needs to know in a basic course including technology, theory, tactics, and legal issues. The course is presented in a seminar format using lecture, slides, and video. Maximum enrollment is 50.

CFI Renewal
Unit CFIs have the opportunity to renew their instructor ratings with outstanding instructor Leo Bell, whose engaging and entertaining style makes learning a fun experience. This is APSA’s fifth consecutive year sponsoring this course. Not just your average CFI Course, this one is oriented toward airborne law enforcement, both fixed wing and helicopter. Mr. Bell is one of the most knowledgeable and entertaining in the industry. If you can adjust your CFI renewal to attend the APSA course, you won’t be disappointed. Maximum enrollment is 20.

Maintenance IA Renewal Course
Not to be left out this year are the professional aircraft maintenance personnel who will be afforded the opportunity to attend a one-day IA certification renewal course. This course meets the eight-hour FAA requirement and promises to be the most interesting one you’ve ever attended. There are eight more hours of maintenance training offered during the main conference portion. Maximum enrollment is 20.

Meeting Rooms and Classrooms:
Our meeting rooms this year are very conveniently placed so you can quickly move from classes to exhibits. Pre-conference classes will be conducted in the ballrooms of the Hyatt Regency Hotel itself, while Main Conference classes will be conducted in upper conference rooms that lead directly to the attached Convention Center. This makes it very easy to both attend classes and access the exhibit floor, all the while in air-conditioned comfort.

Main Conference Classes:
Main Conference classes and seminars again will be offered on a variety of aviation topics. Several new classes have been added this year, including Traffic Enforcement From The Air, Homeland Security Missions and Applications, FLIR Operations in a Rural Environment, Cannabis Detection and Eradication, In-Flight Emergencies, and several others. Our Saturday classes will focus on four disciplines: unit management, patrol tactics, search and rescue, and fixed-wing operations.

Once again, our APSA Affiliates have graciously sponsored a "lunch crawl" (aka free food) on the exhibit hall floor during the lunch hour on Thursday and Friday. No educational classes will be offered between 11:00am – 1:00pm on those days to allow uninterrupted time to meet with the vendors and enjoy lunch.

Your opinion counts! Course critiques from last year played a major role in shaping this year’s curriculum. During both the Pre-Conference and Main Conference Courses, each of you will be asked to complete a very brief critique of the class you have attended. Please take the time to complete the critique and turn it in before you leave the class.

One of the best parts about learning is the informal sharing we do at this annual conference. We learn by classroom participation, conversations and exchanging insights into our unit’s unique experiences. By being involved and speaking up, we strengthen both the organization and our profession. Even though this is a time of austere budgets, remember that training and learning are essential on-going needs, even if we have to fund it on our own. There is no dollar value that can be placed on the continued training and standards maintenance that we receive through APSA. The information you glean may make a life-saving difference.

Above & Beyond:
Sheriff's Pilot Rescues Man Over Niagara Falls

By John J. Goldman, Los Angeles Times

There was a moment when Kevin Caffery, at the controls of the rescue helicopter, locked eyes with the man desperately struggling to keep from being swept over Niagara Falls. "My partner and I were sure this poor guy was going over," said Caffery, a captain in the Erie County Sheriff's Department.

And then, incredibly, as the man slipped, he was able to grab onto yet another rock in the icy water. He was only a foot from the edge of the falls and pleading, "Please, please don't lose me," when he was saved.

The 48-year-old man had slid down an icy slope into the water. Authorities said he had fallen from Terrapin Point on Goat Island on the U.S. side of Horseshoe Falls, skidding about 20 feet from the shoreline to about five feet from the edge of the falls, which plunges 170 feet. New York State Park Police summoned their helicopter when they were unable to pull the man to safety.

"He was taken through the rapids, and at the last second, he managed to grab onto a rock," Caffery said. "The rock was under water. He was able to pull himself up, and was standing in water up to his thighs."

Attempts to save the man with a rescue basket dangling from the helicopter failed. "He was so close to the brink, every time I attempted to move close to him, the helicopter went over the brink of the falls and got a tremendous draft of swirling air, and it was impossible to control the helicopter," he said.

After consultations with rescue personnel on shore, Caffery and his partner Art Litzinger, a tactical flight officer, decided to touch down gently on an icy outcropping of land at the edge of the falls.

Firefighters handed a rescue ring with a rope to Litzinger in a back seat of the helicopter as other police and firefighters attached to ropes and wearing insulated suits waded into the water.

Darkness was fast approaching when the helicopter lifted off. "I flew backward, and we dropped the rescue ring to him," Caffery said. "Just before we dropped it, the over-wash from the helicopter knocked him off his feet, and he slid to less than a foot from the brink. It was unbelievable. He was able to somehow grab onto another rock."

The helicopter made another pass. This time, the man managed to hold on to the ring while the rescuers in the water were able to pull him to shore.

"We were screaming in the helicopter when he grabbed that rescue ring," Caffery said. "That was the last hope. Our aircraft is called Air One. The rescuers on the shore said, "If you can't get him Air One, he is going to go."'

After the rescue, which took almost two hours at night, many of the 50 people who participated in the effort hugged each other and cheered. "I have been doing this search and rescue for a lot of years," said Caffery, chief pilot for the sheriff's office. "I have never seen anything like this. This guy had a guardian angel sitting on his shoulder."

Note: The man was in stable condition the next day at the Niagara Falls Medical Center, where he was treated for severe hypothermia.

Expand Your Safety Knowledge & Networking

By Jay Fuller, APSA Safety Coordinator 

As APSA Safety Coordinator, I have a vision of the perfect law enforcement aviation unit. It is one that provides service to its parent police agency; it provides real-time situational information and intelligence unavailable from other sources; it is a force multiplier, allowing the agency to deal with more circumstances than its ground resources can accommodate; and it performs law enforcement tasks that would not be possible by surface based equipment alone. And, every person assigned, every minute of the day, works with the intent of preventing mishaps and preserving resources. Safety must be our culture; safety is "the way we do business".

Safety is the single main purpose of APSA. Our training programs have generated a series of regional safety seminars throughout the year and the annual APSA National Conference. This issue of Air Beat Magazine is dedicated to this year's conference in Wichita. I ask that you carefully read through this issue and note the pre-conference classes plus conference seminars being presented. Conference seminars are free to attendees and the pre-conference courses, although presented at a fee, are some of the best, most cost effective training opportunities you will find in the aviation field. Further, they are generated and conducted by experienced law enforcement aviation professionals with you in mind.

Having been involved with many aviation organizations over my 36-year career and attended numerous seminars and conferences, I can honestly say that APSA provides the best return on value for conference attendees that you will find anywhere, and an enjoyable experience at the same time. Think seriously about attending, even if it's on your own nickel. And sell the program up the hierarchy, including senior managers above but outside the aviation unit. I am continuously reading about the fiscal pressures being placed on state and local agencies, in some cases negatively impacting law enforcement activities, but now is the time to take advantage of the cost effective educational opportunities. While other courses and conferences may be outside the realm of fiscal possibility for your organization, review the APSA National Conference carefully.

The course I am most excited about is one we will be conducting for the first time this year. The Aviation Unit Safety Officer (ASO) pre-conference course will be taught over three days from July 21-23. It is intended to meet the needs of a line officer assigned to the duty of managing the aviation unit's safety program.

As one who was assigned as safety officer for the NY State Police with no previous safety management experience, I recognize the value of such a class. Fortunately, I worked for an organization that understood the necessity of training, bought me books, and sent me to school. However the commercial training I received lacked the perspective of a tactical, law enforcement environment. The course we have devised consists partly of basic aviation safety elements taught by an outside agency and partly of safety elements taught by experienced law enforcement aviation personnel. Thus, we will not only teach basic safety principles and methodology, but also how to apply these in an operating environment. It's a must for the new ASO or someone who is interested in initiating a unit safety program. Further, it is applicable to current safety officers.

APSA will be conducting the Command Safety Course as well. This is a traditional course for the national conference and it is aimed at aviation unit managers and supervisors. Traditional aviation safety principles are taught with an emphasis on the importance of command involvement. If you're an aviation unit supervisor, plan to attend. If you have previously attended but it's been a few years, think about coming again. Material does change and review is always a positive thing.

We will again host a Safety Symposium during the main conference. This year we'll start out with a short brief on APSA safety activities followed by a guest safety presentation. The last half of the symposium will be a traditional round table discussion of safety issues in our industry plus eliciting new ideas and issues from attendees. Make a note of the time and place, and be sure to attend.

Aside from those classes mentioned, all pre-conference and conference classes either directly or indirectly address safety issues. Each can enhance the safety of your unit's operating environment.

Airmen vs. Kidney Stones

By Ronald W. Case, M.D., FACS, AME

Kidney stones are one of the most painful disorders to afflict humans, and a common ailment for pilots. In fact, there are approximately one million cases of kidney stones each year. It is estimated that 10 percent of all people in the United States will have a kidney stone at some point in their life, affecting men more frequently than women.

Kidney stones are a disorder of the urinary tract. Most kidney stones pass out of the body without any intervention by a physician. Cases that cause lasting symptoms or complications may be treated by various techniques that do not involve major surgery. Research advances have also led to a better understanding of the many factors that promote stone formation.

The urinary system consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located below the ribs toward the middle of the back. The kidneys remove extra water and wastes from the blood, converting it to urine. They also keep a stable balance of salts and other substances in the blood. The kidneys produce hormones that help build strong bones and help form red blood cells. 

Narrow tubes called ureters carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, a triangle-shaped chamber in the lower abdomen. Like a balloon, the bladder's elastic walls stretch and expand to store urine. They flatten together when urine is emptied through the urethra to outside the body.

A kidney stone develops from crystals that separate from urine and build up on the inner surfaces of the kidney. Normally, urine contains chemicals that prevent or inhibit the crystals from forming. These inhibitors do not seem to work for every one and some people form stones. If the crystals remain tiny enough, they will travel through the urinary tract and pass out of the body in the urine without even being noticed. /p>

Kidney stones may contain various combinations of chemicals. The most common type of stone contains calcium in combination with either oxalate or phosphate. These chemicals are part of a person's normal diet. A less common type of stone is caused by infection in the urinary tract. Gallstones and kidney stones are not related.

For some unknown reason, the number of persons in the United States with kidney stones has been increasing over the past 20 years. Kidney stones strike most people between the ages of 20 and 40. Once a person gets more than one stone, he or she is more likely to develop others.

Doctors do not always know what causes a stone to form. Certain foods may promote stone formation in people who are susceptible.  A person with a family history of kidney stones, urinary tract infections, kidney disorders, and metabolic disorders such as hyperparathyroidism are more likely to form kidney stones.

Usually, the first symptom of a kidney stone is extreme pain. The pain often begins suddenly when a stone moves in the urinary tract, causing irritation or blockage. If fever and chills accompany any of these symptoms, an infection may be present.

To prevent calcium stones that form in hyperparathyroid patients, a surgeon may remove part or all of the parathyroid glands (located in the neck). 

Some type of surgery may be needed to remove a kidney stone if the stone does not pass after a reasonable period of time and causes constant pain. There are several procedures that can be done to successfully treat kidney stones:

Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy (ESWL) uses shockwaves that are created outside of the body to travel through the skin and body tissues until the waves hit the stones. The stones become sand-like and are easily passed through the urinary tract in the urine.

Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy is recommended to remove larger stones or in a location that does not allow effective use of ESWL.

Ureteroscopy may be needed for mid and lower ureteral stones. The surgeon passes a small fiberoptic instrument called an ureteroscope through the urethra and bladder into the ureter to remove it with a cage-like device or shatters it with a special instrument that produces a form of shockwave.

The Federal Aviation Administration has specific guidelines regarding kidney stones or as they refer to them "Renal Stones". Retained stones are disqualifying for issuance of a medical certificate. The Examiner should either deny or defer issuance and transmit the completed FAA for 8500-8 to the Aero Medical Certification Division. Complete studies to determine the possible etiology and prognosis are essential to favorable FAA consideration. The likelihood of sudden incapacitating symptoms is of primary concern. 

An Examiner may not issue a medical certificate to an applicant with a history of recent or recurring renal stones unless there is documentation that there is no residual stone or significant likelihood of recurrence. If the applicant has a remote history of a single episode of a kidney stone and is free of signs or symptoms, the Examiner may issue a medical certificate. The documentation obtained must be submitted to the FAA. 

Prevention Points to Remember

  1. People who have a family history of stones or who have had more than one stone are likely to develop another.
  2. A good first step to prevent any type of stone is to drink plenty of liquids - water is best. 
  3. People with chronic urinary tract infections and stones will often need the stone removed if the doctor determines that the infection results from the stone's presence.