Billy Hamblin says he had a simple goal every shift he flew as a Vanderbilt
LifeFlight pilot: “For the nurses to go home each night.”
For 26 years, since the LifeFlight program’s beginnings in 1984, Hamblin achieved that goal. He was in the pilot’s seat for more than 5,000 LifeFlight missions and, at the end of every shift,
the nurses went safely home.
Of course, a lot of other people did, too. LifeFlight’s coverage area of Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky is full of former
patients—mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers—who are living today because Hamblin was there to get them to medical care at a
“Billy has been here so long he is a part of the institution,” said John Morris, M.D., director of the Division of Trauma and Surgical
Critical Care. “There is not one part of the program since day one with the first LifeFlight
mission in 1984, where he has not been a part of and made contributions.”
Hamblin began his aviation career in the Army, serving in Vietnam with an
assault helicopter company. Before leaving the service, his duties also
included inspecting units for compliance to flight installation standards, and
teaching others as an instructor pilot.
He says his military experience flying in support of ground troops prepared him
for his second career flying in support of trauma victims.
In 1984, fresh out of his active duty military service, Hamblin heard that
Vanderbilt University Medical Center was starting a helicopter ambulance
service and called to find out how he could join.
“I felt like this was important work,” he said. “I live in Clarksville and I knew this would be a great opportunity to serve my
community and the greater Nashville area.
“I was a lot younger when I came to Vanderbilt. I was 35; my life was still wide
open. I knew anything could happen with my career, and [being an EMS pilot] was