Monday, June 16, 2014

Federal Aviation Administration exams bring hundreds to Grove, Oklahoma

At the intersection of U.S.S. Independence and U.S.S. Midway, safe flying is a must.

That's the crossroads which mark the location for Aviation Medical Examiner Dennis Deakins office.

Deakins, who is semi-retired, resides with in Grove with his wife Shannon. From his office, he conducts just enough pilot exams to keep himself busy.

“My job is to keep people flying and doing it safely,” Deakins said. “I’ll do 30 to 40 aviation exams a week and last year, I did just under 1,500 exams.”

During the exams, Deakins tests blood pressure, eyesight and how well a pilot can hear. Almost always, Deakins is able to certify the students.

“The Federal Aviation Administration is able to certify 99.9 percent of these pilots,” Deakins said. “The others don’t get certified because they don’t complete their paperwork or other random scenarios.”

The oldest pilot Deakins has certified in his career was a 102.

Before aviation medicine, Deakins was pre-med at Oklahoma University in 1960. He received a bachelor of science, master of science and his doctorate in zoology.

Deakins was a general surgeon at Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas. In 1984, he joined the U.S. Navy to serve as a flight surgeon and for aerospace medicine.

“I used to deliver babies, work in the ER, do surgery, and work 100 hour weeks,” Deakins said. "I tend to work 20 to 30 hour weeks now and at 71 and a half years old, I enjoy slowing down somewhat.”

Deakins said he’s been blessed with a lot of experiences, including examining his third group of Chinese students in the past month.

“There were two groups of 12 students and one group of eight,” Deakins said. “I have been told to expect similar groups of 30 to 34 students about every other month, which will also be broken down into groups of no more than 12 students probably.”

Deakins loves having his home office a few feet from his home. He will occasionally do some traveling on the job even though his work usually comes to him.

“One time, a helicopter landed on my front lawn,” Deakins said. “I often pick up and deliver pilots at the airport when they fly.”

His office is not only convenient but provides all of the supplies he needs to perform his medical exams.

“The office is fully equipped with electrocardiogram, a PC, and the necessary testing equipment but no special benefits accrue to having it except convenience,” Deakins said.

Deakins used to fly his own plane, a Cessna 177, before he joined the Navy. He still flies but is mostly too busy to fly because of his schedule and commitments.

“I would like a two place helicopter or gyrocopter but I also like sailing,” Deakins said. “I would like to get back to golfing and fishing, kayaking, and do a lot of gardening.”

Deakins preaches and advises safe flying above all else to student pilots.

“Stay in the middle of the envelope (away from the edges and corners), be safe and keep your head on a swivel; aviate, navigate, communicate and fly safe,” he said.

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