Aircraft, Equipment and Training Are Key to Successful EMS Operations

 - February 13, 2012, 9:15 PM

FOCUS on…AIR MEDICAL

The latest generation of air medical helicopters is meeting with enthusiasm from both pilots and medical crews. An example, at the AgustaWestland exhibit (Booth No. 5602) is the A109SP GrandNew medevac machine operated by Intermountain HealthCare’s Life Flight out of Salt Lake City.

“There’s nothing I don’t like about this helicopter,” said Denny Patterson, who has flown with Life Flight for 18 years. He flew the A109K2 before Life Flight acquired the SP last year, the first of that mark in the U.S.“The K2 was a great aircraft, especially in the hot-and-high conditions where we are,” Patterson noted, but he added that the SP’s all-glass instrument panel with TCAS and TAWS is a vast improvement in situational awareness compared to the “steam gauge” instrumentation in its predecessor.

The GrandNew has flown about 335 hours since Life Flight took delivery. Patterson said the obstruction warning feature of the helicopter’s synthetic vision system proved itself in the 7.5-hour flight from Utah to Dallas for Heli-Expo, pointing out a tower at five miles which didn’t become visible until much closer.

“The glass cockpit takes a little getting used to, but then it makes flying very easy, and much safer, especially at night,” he noted. “We all fly with night-vision goggles,” Patterson added, pointing out that panel instrumentation with NVG compatibility comes standard from the factory.

“They put the best of everything into their product,” he went on. “This helicopter has been very reliable and really fun to fly.” Patterson said the medical crews appreciate the A109SP’s roomy, well-equipped cabin, especially the low deck entry level that minimizes the effort in loading patients. “The medical crews like it a lot, especially because it has more cabin and leg space.”

Air Medical Training

Training of EMS pilots and medical crew is a specialized business, and one of the busiest is SRT Helicopters at Bakersfield, Calif., (Meadows Field) and its sister company, Specialized Response and Training.

Christian Gadbois, himself a certified EMT-paramedic and EMS pilot with more than 30 years of aviation experience, is president and CEO of both, and a member of the HAI Flight Training Committee. He said that about 20 percent of the training his companies give is EMS-related.

The SRT course for new EMS pilots involves 10 flight hours and 24 hours of ground school. SRT also certifies emergency medical technicians (EMT) and provides instructors to local colleges for flight paramedic certification education. “EMTs perform basic life support, mostly in the ground environment. The paramedics provide advanced life support, and they’re the ones on the helicopter missions,” Gadbois explained.

SRT’s varied ground school curriculum includes flight physiology and air medical resource management, which Gadbois explained as “cockpit resource management with an air medical focus, involving both pilots and medical crew.”

EMS Equipment

Here at Heli-Expo, United Rotorcraft is at Booth No. 8063 with a new air-ambulance product, the Medical Transport Module (MTM), an inclusive cabinet that mounts on an aircraft floor and contains life support items including oxygen, compressed air, vacuum and AC/DC power. Its pivoting loading system greatly simplifies loading into an EMS helicopter.

Designed for airframes with flat floors, the MTM provides space for a standard litter. It is on display in the AW169 mockup at the AgustaWestland exhibit site.

United Rotorcraft is also showing a re-engineered product that can be loaded onto the developmental AW169 without lifting. The “roll-on, roll-off” solution is already available for the Bell 429 and Eurocopter’s EC145 and EC139.