Air Hospital Review: Flying Doctors
AIR HOSPITAL: Thursday 25th March, Channel 4, 9pm ALERT ME
There have been some gripping documentaries about the war in Afghanistan in recent years and this is one of the best. Air Hospital is an intriguing and moving piece of television which tells the story of the RAF’s Critical Care in the Air Support Team (CCAST) as they work to bring injured soldiers back to Britain.
The plane they use is impressive enough. It may be one of the most expensive pieces of military equipment in Britain, but as far as the medical evacuation team are concerned, the C-17 Globemaster is worth its weight in gold. The narrator describes it as an intensive care unit 30,000 ft in the air.
The opening sequence sees the team respond to the infamous incident in which an Afghan military policeman turned on the soldiers training him, killing five and seriously wounding eight more. As difficult to deal with as that shooting was, there is worse to follow.
Watching the team battle to keep some young soldiers caught in a roadside blast stable is pretty harrowing. “This man has lost an arm and a leg,” says one of the team. “That one has lost half of his face.” We are spared the gory footage, but listening to the medics reflect on these kind of situations later on is powerful enough.
“How do you begin to deal with this?” the director asks a wounded soldier. “When I find out, I’ll give you a call,” he replies, as everything fades but the mighty hum of the plane engines.
In this way, Air Hospital smoulders and before you realise what’s happened, it’s right up in your face. Although it is difficult to remember a documentary with a similar slant to this one, eventually it submits to type and becomes an ode to the often voiceless troops out there.
And that is no bad thing…