This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
Bristow Group is transporting suspected Covid-19 patients in three specially-configured former search-and-rescue helicopters in the North Sea and other aircraft in the Americas.
Three people with suspected Covid-19 cases have been flown from offshore energy installations in the North Sea since March 18, in one of the dedicated Sikorsky S-92s. Bristow has also transported acutely-ill offshore workers in the oil and gas industry with suspected Covid-19 in specially-configured SAR aircraft supporting operations in the Gulf of Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana in operations that began there on January 29. Related flights there have included 24 transports of offshore workers and Covid-19 test kits to remote and isolated offshore platforms, drilling rigs, and drill ships. Bristow said it will continue to support emergency medical evacuation requests to transport potentially or actually infected patients.
Helicopters used for these missions have undergone specific modifications to ensure the necessary separation is provided between flight crew, onboard medic, and passengers with suspected Covid-19. Bristow said it is adhering to universal and body substance isolation (BSI) precautions, including physical barriers, protective curtains separating the cockpit from the passenger area and airflow systems, and specific entrance and exit points for the flight crew, paramedic, and passenger to further ensure required distance is maintained.
The helicopters also are equipped with other specialty aeromedical transport equipment. Bristow plans on adding other equipment that will minimize the risk of virus transmission.
“We are currently on track to be the first commercial operator in this region to implement portable, negative pressure isolation stretchers for high-risk transports involving unconsciousness, non-ambulatory, or high-risk infectious disease patients receiving invasive en route care,” said David Jacob, Bristow deputy area manager for the Americas.
Each aircraft is decontaminated after every flight, a process made easier due to the waterproof seating and floors installed for the helicopters’ SAR configuration.
For North Sea transports of Covid-19 patients, Bristow established its service “with approval from the CAA, and the support of Oil and Gas UK, our client base and the relevant health authorities—and we remain in continuous dialogue with those organizations,” said Matt Rhodes, Bristow director for UK and Turkmenistan oil and gas. He said the service is part of Bristow’s “commitment to supporting the energy industry in what are extremely challenging circumstances.”
Bristow also is providing expertise to the UK industry’s pandemic steering group and Rhodes said the company was prepared to assist industries other than oil and gas throughout the UK “as the national response to the coronavirus outbreak gathers pace.”
Jacob said Bristow was similarly prepared to expand transport of Covid-19 patients in the Americas. “We are ready to help and have the experience to do it the right way and can expand this service to where needed to help battle Covid-19,” he said.