When transportation of patients require fast travel in great distances and over different geographic areas, an aircraft is the most appropriate and suitable mode of transport. These specific types of aircrafts, whether a jet or helicopter, are called air ambulances and are fitted with equipment for particular medical needs or conditions.
“There are as many air ambulance aircraft types as companies providing air ambulance services. Each patient’s situation is unique as well has their mission requirements. Distance to be covered, patient’s health condition and size, treatment and medical care requirements, airport runaways, etc., are all factors that need to be taken into account when choosing an air ambulance service (and aircraft).”
That is why at Euopean Air Ambulance we insist on having the mission details defined before committing. It has happened that the size of the patient was not provided and, as later on found to be oversize, could not be fitted through the aircraft door of a Learjet 35. With consequent mission cancellation and associated costs.
In some case the patient may be undergoing ECMO (Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation) and the associated equipment may leave too little space for the medical crew onboard smaller aircrafts. Same for bariatric patients.
Knowing the exact medical conditions in advance also allows to optimize the medical equipment on-board and avoid cramming the aircraft with unnecessary and expensive devices.
Of course, as a general rule, the smaller the aircraft the lower the price of the mission, but also less convenient to some patients.
Some aircraft do not have a pressurized cabin – named PPUnp (Piston-powered unpressurized) – and are suitable for short distances or where patients cannot stand high altitudes, and can take off and land on more difficult terrain, but they are also nosier and more subject to turbulence.”
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“The life-preserving services that the world’s air ambulances provide can be classified broadly into two main categories: rotary-wing and fixed-wing.
Rotary Wing Air Ambulances
Helicopter ambulances are used in a variety of situations, primarily dealing with emergency response. Hospitals utilize them to carry specially-trained air EMS teams out to a location where a patient has been injured (like an accident scene), and then to escort the patient safely and quickly back to the hospital.
Helicopters are used for transporting patients over relatively short distances. A major benefit that rotary-wing air ambulances have over fixed-wing air ambulances is that they are able to land in a much greater variety of locations.
While they can’t safely land everywhere, helicopter ambulances can often land on roads, paved areas, or in parks or fields in the rural countryside or in cramped urban environments. This allows them to come directly to the patient’s location rather than needing to be transported first to an airport or airstrip as is typically the case with fixed-wing air ambulances.
However, they have shorter operating ranges and thus are generally used “locally” for emergencies (HEMS) where the patient is in critical condition and both time and receiving high quality care is a factor.
When speaking about aircraft, the term “fixed-wing” refers to wings that do not move, or are “fixed” in a specific location on the aircraft. Fixed-wing air ambulances may either be propeller driven or jet engine powered.
Fixed wing Air Ambulances
Longer-distance air ambulances are usually business jets, such as Lear jets, that have been converted into housing high-tech medical equipment and may have had other alterations to better enable them to accommodate a patient and a medical crew.
Air ambulance jets are a necessity for quickly and comfortably transporting patients across countries, oceans, and continents. Not all long distance transports are flown by jets, however. Propeller-driven aircraft called turboprops sometimes are used for long-distance and/or international transports as well. These type of air ambulances are utilized frequently — though not always — in rural parts of countries like the United States and Australia.
In addition to being able to travel longer distances before needing to refuel, fixed-wing air ambulances have more spacious interiors and can carry more medical equipment and personnel than helicopters. They can cover these distances faster, and operate in weather conditions that rotary-wing air ambulances cannot. In addition, there is generally less turbulence experienced at the higher altitudes that fixed-wing aircraft can travel in.
Whether the fixed-wing transport is carried out using a jet or turboprop aircraft all depends on the fleet of the air ambulance service handling the transport and the parameters of the transport.”
There are two main types of air ambulances, as defined at: http://airmedical.net/resource/types-air-ambulances/
Seventy-four percent (74%) of air ambulances are helicopters, and are occasionally not directed by air traffic controllers, due to the nature of their operations. These move through different environment and weather conditions, whether gentle or extreme. They may also be gotten hold of by contacting several operators and chancing upon at least one, with no explanation, or call jumping. Loss of control or LOC do not pose as a problem with helicopters as well as landing in makeshift pads, usually in unanticipated situations, locations and conditions.
Air ambulance jets are Lear-type jets, which refer to the design and style of the aircraft. These not only provide fast response and medical care to patients while traveling, but are offer more space for medical personnel, facilities and equipment. On many jet flights depending on the company, they will also allow 1-2 family members to accompany the patient. When the medical flight is for pediatrics, it is always a good idea to have mom or dad on the flight.
Learjets are not the only type of aircraft that are used for medical flight transports. Some other types are: commercial airliners, piston and prop planes. Although the most popular choice is a private Learjet.
“On the contrary, a slightly larger aircraft, such as the Learjets 45XR operated by EAA, offer more comfort and a series of advantages, such as:
- First of foremost the capability to host a double stretcher, thus allowing to carry more than one patient, including incubators, or additional passengers, and up to a full family as demonstrated in this particular case. They are certified for patients up to 200Kg. Separate bathroom facilities are featured as well and a curtain can separate the 2 patients.
- Each of the separate stretcher units are fitted with state of the art medical equipment including vacuum mattress, ventilator, defibrillator, monitoring system, infusion system, blood gas analyser, suction unit and all necessary drugs to safely transport intensive care patients.
- The aircraft also carries 12.000 litres of oxygen, providing a comfortable reserve for patients with an increased oxygen requirement, (i.e. non-invasive ventilation), even for long distance journeys, which are also more comfortable, of course.
- The medical team can be larger, which is important for patients in critical conditions. In the case of EAA the medical crew is multilingual, which is an aspect not to underestimate.
- Ease and safe loading of patients and short refuelling time.”
Read the full post (Advantages of Lear-type jets) by visiting – http://www.air-ambulance.com/Press/tabid/206/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/24/How-to-choose-the-right-air-ambulance-aircraft.aspx