Cleveland Metro Life Flight makes regular use of its instrument-flying capability and technologies, but on July 19th, it took a new step, as all three of Metro Life Flight’s critical care helicopter crews simultaneously performed instrument-only flights with patients on board. That means three ill and/or injured people were able to get definitive care in a more efficient, safer manner.

IFRInstrument Flight Rules (IFR) is a method of flying that relies on advanced avionics technology rather than traditional visual flight rules. When flying in instrument weather conditions, the pilots navigate and monitor their geographic position (including altitude and airspeed) as well as helicopter attitude using the flight instruments on the helicopter instrument panel (such as Global Position System equipment, altimeters and attitude and airspeed indicators). They file a flight plan with the FAA and are under the control of FAA air traffic controllers while getting from point A to point B in the clouds.

On the afternoon of July 19, Northern Ohio experienced a low cloud ceiling and scattered rain showers which made visual flying a challenge. With the help of Metro Life Flight’s Flight Communications Office and regional airports, the dual-pilot teams based in Lorain, Portage and Wayne Counties developed creative flight plans that involved utilizing the advanced IFR capabilities of their EC-145 helicopters to successfully fly patients through challenging conditions to MetroHealth Medical Center, Akron City Hospital and Cleveland Clinic – Main Campus.


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Founded in 1982, Cleveland Metro Life Flight is the longest-running critical-care transport program in Northern Ohio. Its three helicopters and intensive care ambulance transport 3,000 seriously ill and injured patients to medical facilities throughout the region every year.

With more than 90,000 patient transports in its 30-plus years, the program is accident-free and has maintained a perfect safety record.

As a leader in critical-care transport, Cleveland Metro Life Flight uses Airbus EC-145 helicopters, one of the most advanced models in the industry equipped with state-of-the-art safety and navigation technology. For safer aviation, all of the program’s pilots are trained to fly with night-vision goggles and in instrument-only conditions. Its helicopters always fly with two pilots and advanced medical crew configurations made up of critical-care physicians, nurse practitioners and flight nurse specialists.