Helicopter ambulance – a step nearer Posted July 18, 2013 by Adrian Nance


A helicopter ambulance is a really important part of health care.  Especially when access is difficult.  It helps really ill people get faster care.   This can be very important after a disaster.  And Wings Like Eagles is committed to life saving – see our Purpose.

This is called medical evacuation or MEDEVAC.

Some Bell Jet Rangers can be helicopter ambulances.   The one in South Africa can.  It is owned by our affiliate.

We are sorry that, since writing this post, the civil aviation regulations in South Africa have changed. This helicopter can no longer be a helicopter ambulance.  We still aspire to provide that capability.  Please read on if you are interested.

What is a helicopter ambulance?

The first thing is a good and sturdy helicopter is needed, and a reliable and well maintained one.  You can move medical patients safely and quickly, if it has enough space inside.

But the helicopter is not the only part of the capability to provide a helicopter ambulance.

A stretcher is a key part of a helicopter ambulance – see the picture.  This needs to be light.  So more life saving kit can be carried.  It needs to be strong.  Then heavier patients can be lifted safely.  The stretcher also needs to be authorized for flight – so it costs a bit.  It may not look it – but it does!

Special equipment is also needed.  This is key life saving kit that must be safe in flight.  We may need heart monitoring equipment.   The patient may require a heart defibrillator, so if their heart stops it can be restarted.   The helicopter will need a medical oxygen supply.  And all this equipment must be checked to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the helicopter’s electronics.

An airborne paramedic is also part of a helicopter ambulance.  Someone to keep the the patient alive during the flight.  These people are rare.  This specialist talks to the pilot about embarking and tending the patient.  The paramedic is the one who operates the life saving equipment in flight.  This specialist does the handover of the patient to the hospital experts on arrival.

So is that it?

No.  The pilot needs to fly differently in a helicopter ambulance.  They need to be quick, but safe.  Then they can help seize any life saving opportunity.  Vibration or altitude affect some medical conditions.  So the pilot needs to talk to the paramedic.  The pilot also needs to pick places to land close to the casualty.  Skilled pilots are needed.

This sort of work is really important .  Our affiliate is investing in making the helicopter able to realize its potential.

There are lots of helicopter ambulances in South Africa.   Do you want to help us make this sort of thing available after disasters please think about giving to us.  You can make a one off gift, or regular donations or even give in your will.