For the medical workers that have dedicated their careers to the health and care of others, helicopters can make a vital difference that could save a patient’s life. Poland’s public air medical rescue operator LPR’s (Lotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe) fleet of Airbus helicopters has accumulated 100,000 flight hours - an impressive milestone which highlights just how many people have been saved thanks to these vital missions.
“We fly to help”
Konrad Matyja, one of LPR’s medical doctors, explains the kind of mission LPR’s helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) crew members regularly face.
“During the high COVID season Warsaw’s emergency response was heavily overloaded. This caused a rising number of HEMS missions within the city area. One morning we were dispatched to a motorcycle accident which occurred on a busy street in the city centre. We knew right away that this would be a very challenging mission – landing, keeping the helicopter area safe, and managing a crowd that is trying to help, but can in fact be a hindrance. We reached our GPS destination point and started looking for an accident scene. We spotted a flipped-over motorcycle and some people around a motorcyclist who was lying prone.
The lower we got the more obstacles we noticed. Both the doctor and HEMS crew member had their doors open and looked carefully down to assure a safe landing. The landing area was limited by tramway rails, electrical wires, a bus stop and a traffic jam. We hovered at about 30-40 feet until firefighters confirmed that all pedestrians were clear and there were no loose objects – the area was safe. The pilot resumed the approach and within a few seconds both skids touched the ground. The doctor rushed to the scene, HCM confirmed a quick engine turn-off procedure and waited till the blades stopped.
The patient was unconscious. The ABCs (Airways, Breathing and Circulation) and initial trauma examination suggested serious internal injuries and a forearm fracture. The patient was set on a spine-board, a monitor was attached and an IV line opened. To buy some time we made a decision to transport the patient by helicopter. Following some essential medical procedures, we were ready for take-off.
The helicopter crew member (HCM) jumped outside to ensure safety, with the assistance of the firefighters, who were doing a great job, as usual. Take-off again required the full attention of all crew members. Operations in the vicinity of multiple obstacles are possible because of the size of the H135 and the short diameter of the rotor.
The flight lasted about 10 minutes. Upon landing we noticed a sudden drop in blood pressure – a sign of a hemorrhagic shock. The trauma team waited for the HEMS crew in the ER and the patient, after a short preparation was transferred directly to the operating room. The surgery outcome was successful.
The rescue helicopter had once again played an important role in the chain of survival.
As it says in our company’s motto – we fly to help.”
Continuing the tradition of Polish medical aviation
Initially created in 2000, LPR nevertheless assumed the mantle and tradition of Polish medical aviation. Since the beginning of the century it has been flying HEMS missions to deliver urgent care and lifesaving aid to many amongst the country’s 38 million citizens. With an overall staff of 750, including 116 pilots, 138 doctors and 90 paramedics, LPR operates 27 Airbus Helicopters H135 on 21 permanent bases (with one additional base in use over the busier summer season) all over Poland, LPR’s plane fleet is also responsible for patient transport and transfers both within and exterior to country’s borders.
With HEMS missions essential by their very nature, when initially beginning their operations LPR had to face challenges of building a network within tight publicly financed budgetary constraints – initially beginning operations with a fleet of legacy eastern-bloc helicopters, though from the very start it was clear that this would not be viable long term and modernisation would be required very quickly.
Choosing the right helicopter for HEMS
With a variety of criteria to consider when refreshing its fleet, including ensuring cost-efficiency for public money, LPR ultimately opted for the H135 – marking the beginning of a relationship stretching back some 15 years. More recently, the initial order of 23 H135 helicopters was supplemented with a further four in 2015. LPR’s HEMS fleet is today entirely composed of the H135 – making them one of the larger European HEMS operators.
Over the last three years LPR’s doctors, paramedics and pilots have performed nearly 35,000 primary and secondary missions, for a total of 24,498 flight hours. This means that every hour an LPR helicopter is saving the life of someone in Poland – certainly rising to the challenge of one of the largest health crises the world has ever had to face, whilst also continuing to respond to other non-COVID related missions. “In order to respond to so many missions where people’s lives are often in danger, the helicopter’s reliability is absolutely paramount. That’s why with its of up to 99% availability, cost-efficiency and its simple maintenance program, the H135 is the perfect fit for HEMS operators such as LPR” says Stefan Bestle, Key Segment Manager for HEMS at Airbus Helicopters.
Supporting a worldwide lifesaver
Airbus Helicopters also provides dedicated proximity services in Warsaw through Heli Invest, its Authorised Airbus Helicopters Service centre since 2008 to more than 70 Airbus helicopters operated in Poland, representing 40% of the civil and parapublic market.
With 304 customers worldwide, today there are 1,357 H135 in service operating in 64 countries with well over 6 million total fleet flight hours. Together with the H135 and its bigger brother the H145, Airbus Helicopters is the worldwide leader in the public services segment with a market share of 32% and in the HEMS market 53%.