Today, there are more than 80 air rescue locations from various operators in Germany. The crews of ADAC Air Rescue are on duty every day at 37 stations, with more than 50 Airbus-built rescue helicopters of the H145, H135 and EC135 versions. Nationwide, almost 1,300 people work for the non-profit ADAC Luftrettung, which has been a subsidiary of the ADAC Foundation since 2017 – including some 160 pilots, approximately 250 emergency paramedics, 150 technicians and 600 emergency doctors
Since the start in 1970, the "flying yellow angels" (as ADAC’s rescuers are known in Germany), have flown over one million missions. Every year they are called on more than 50,000 rescue deployments.
The ADAC rescue helicopters are generally ready for action from 7 a.m. to sundown. After receiving an alarm, they are usually airborne within two minutes to bring the emergency doctor and services to the patient.
Air Jet's helicopter fleet includes two Airbus H125s, an Airbus Dauphin and an Airbus EC135. Air Jet expects two brand-new Airbus H145 to be delivered in 2021, completing its fleet.
Air Jet strictly complies with the rules of ANAC, and after flights, all aircraft are sanitised according to safety protocols. Aircraft maintenance also is carried out in state-of-the-art workshops properly approved by ANAC.
The removal of patients through specialised teams and equipped aircraft also have become standard amid COVID-19. During the pandemic, Air Jet carried out specific training so that the entire crew could guarantee the safety and agility in the aerial removals of patients. The company also obtained isolation capsules (PID) for transporting critical patients.
The airlines that provided this service had an exponential increase in hours flown. Air Jet’s total hours flown grew by 660% – 253 in 2020 compared to 33 in 2019. The trips included both private aircraft charter and assistance to Prevent Senior beneficiaries, who have access to the service at no additional cost in emergency cases.
Over the course of 2020, 85 patients were removed from distant locations from São Paulo – the most distant, Boa Vista, in Roraima (4,681 kilometres from São Paulo). Of these 85 patients, 17 were victims of COVID-19 and were transported in aircraft equipped with aerial intensive care units (ICUs), equipped with isolation mechanisms, and staffed by health professionals specialised in the activity.
When mountain climbing gained popularity in northeastern Italy’s Dolomites during the 1950s, the number of accidents also increased significantly. Born from the spirit of solidarity and the motivation of numerous volunteer mountaineers from the region, the association Aiut Alpin Dolomites was founded in 1990. Today, it comprises 17 mountain rescue teams that have saved more than 17,000 people (as of 2020).
While rescue operations previously were carried out by mountain guides with simple climbing equipment, the rescue teams today use modern hardware adapted to the requirements of the region – including steep rock faces – and they are backed by the availability of an H135 emergency rescue helicopter.
In 2020 alone, the association records show that more than 900 people were rescued. Of this total, 30 were recovered by the helicopter in hovering operations – without the possibility of landing at the site. Each mission took an average of 34.8 flight minutes, and the helicopter was used on 58 night flights. In addition to saving lives, the rescue service also enhances the attractiveness of tourism, which is the region’s main source of income.
Until 2003, the missions were carried out with single-engine helicopters. With the adaptation to European Union directives in 2003, a changeover was made to the twin-engine helicopter in Airbus’ H135 rotorcraft family.
Since March 2015, the latest H135 version has been in service. This helicopter is equipped with a 90-metre-long cable winch with a pulling force of 272 kg., a double-load hook, medical equipment for resuscitation and stabilization of the patient, as well as snow skids.
In the Alpes-Maritimes region of southern France, the yellow helicopter of France’s emergency medical service, SAMU 06, is known as a guardian angel. Attached to the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice (CHU) and based at Hospital Pasteur 2, SAMU 06 is part of a network of 105 SAMUs (the French acronym for: Urgent Medical Aid Service) that began in the 1960s to provide emergency medical services in France, with helicopter operations taking shape in the 1980s.
Onboard the SAMU 06 helicopter is an emergency medical team, alongside the specialised flight crew of operator Babcock France.
Together, this expert team achieves 400+ helicopter missions per year in a region known for its diverse geography and meteorological extremes. The 4,300 square kilometre area extends from the low Southern Alps to the Mediterranean coast and the island of Corsica. Flight crews frequently encounter complex flying conditions such as storms, snow, maritime overflight conditions, along with southern France’s infamous mistral winds.
Across France, Babcock operates a fleet of 32 Airbus-built helicopters (25 H135s and seven H145s) dispatched at 28 SAMU bases. Together, they completed more than 15,500 missions in 2019.
Unlike other French SAMUs, a majority of the missions performed by SAMU 06 are primary missions – or in-field rescues and transports, 15% of which are conducted at altitudes greater than 15,000 feet. As an example, a SAMU rescue to the skiing resort Isola 2000 that takes more than 1 hr. 50 min. by ground ambulance is reduced to only 20 minutes using a helicopter.
One year ago, SAMU 06 began operating a new H145, greatly appreciated for its performance, high availability, spacious and flexible cabin, and state-of-the-art equipment. “With the H145, we feel we can tackle almost any mission,” explained Dr. Christophe Lemesle, responsible for HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services) dispatch at Nice Hospital. “Additionally, we now have the cabin space to carry a second patient or an accompanying family member. We also can take more equipment on board, enabling us to manage back-to-back missions with a much wider range of patient cases.”
The H145 enables SAMU 06 to go beyond its standard mission perimeter. A recent example was the SAMU 06 lending a hand to neighbouring SAMU 83 for a mission requiring a specialised “counter-pulse” balloon for a cardiac patient. And when the village of Tende was hit with devastating flooding in early October 2020 and road access was fully cut off, SAMU 06’s H145 transported patients and material in and out of Tende and its local hospital over a 10-day period.
According to Chief Pilot Jean-Bernard Pétroni, the H145’s “must-have” features for HEMS operations in enhancing flight safety include the synthetic vision system coupled with HTAWS (helicopter terrain awareness and warning system) for situational awareness, along with a rear camera on the tail boom for mountain landings as well as the Traffic Advisory System (TAS) when flying in airspace with many airplanes. Pétroni added: “This aircraft feels like the safest platform I have ever flown.”
For Christophe Mauron, the Director of Babcock EMS France, the H145 and H135 answer the availability criteria – which is important for HEMS. “As an operator, we commit to an availability rate and therefore need a helicopter with a solid and clean design” he explained. “And if a part fails, we count on Airbus for good part availability to quickly return the aircraft to service. The overall reliability of the H135 and H145 is one of the key reasons for Babcock to choose an Airbus fleet solution.”
While the HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services) business model is still in its infancy in Thailand, Bangkok Helicopter Services (BHS) has been a pioneer in this sector and is making inroads to build more awareness of these lifesaving operations.
Established in 2005, BHS adheres to CAMTS (Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems) standards and has quickly developed its capabilities and fleet. BHS operated two rotorcraft – an EC145 and H145 – from its base in Bangkok as of December 2020.
The company’s HEMS numbers have been particularly impressive in recent years, accumulating nearly 1,500 flight hours on 365-plus medical-related missions. BHS helicopters are flown across the country, undertaking missions in various provinces of Thailand.
BHS’ high utilisation of its rotorcraft was evident in 2014 in response to severe flooding that left many local villages in peril. Over the course of one month, BHS flew 150 flight hours with a single helicopter to rescue villagers that were either trapped or in need of medical attention. The helicopter also transferred patients to nearby hospitals and flew donation supplies to villages.
In addition, BHS has been able to transport patients requiring the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) in life support.
For the company, the heart of HEMS lies in its ability to quickly transport a patient from the accident scene to the nearest hospital or clinic to receive care and treatment.
“Just as in the area of night flight with night vision goggles and air rescue missions with hoist operations, DRF Luftrettung uses its experience and know-how in all core areas of air rescue in order to continuously optimize patient care, operational tactics and the safety of all those involved,” stated, Dr. Peter Huber, the COO of DRF Luftrettung.
This is the strategy behind the continued development of DRF Luftrettung’s technical capabilities at its Operations Centre, located at Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden International Airport. Today, the facility has 15 maintenance docks for helicopters and ambulance aircraft, while approximately 140 dedicated engineers ensure the airworthiness of the fleets 365 days a year. The DRF Luftrettung Sales Department offers a complete range of services to private or commercial customers, and to other aviation operators.
Airbus Helicopters and DRF Luftrettung are long-standing partners. DRF Luftrettung has been a dedicated Airbus operator, using a range of its light twin-engine rotorcraft: the BK 177, EC135, H135 and EC145. In 2014, DRF Luftrettung was the launch customer for the new H145 helicopter equipped with Airbus’ signature Fenestron shrouded tail rotor.
As of 2021, DRF Luftrettung will modify its H145 helicopters from the four-blade main rotor configuration to the five-blade arrangement, which provides additional performance. DRF Luftrettung’s technical Service Center also will offer this retrofit to external customers.
Like every company, Hiratagakuen has had its fair share of challenges over the years, such as securing yearly financial support from the Japanese government – especially when operating costs are on the rise. Other operational issues include the lack of developed hangars to house the helicopters and conducting landings on challenging surfaces such as sandy areas without watering supply, although the situation has since improved.
Hiratagakuen has undertaken numerous missions in the region. Between April 2019 and March 2020 alone, it launched 6,336 missions across its 10 bases, accumulating nearly 3,000 flight hours in total.
The company notes the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes as one of its most significant missions, which saw Hiratagakuen dispatching several helicopters concurrently to affected areas for rescue operations.
An area that the company is most proud of is building up its capabilities to extend a wide area of coverage for HEMS operations in Hyogo prefecture, with mutual cooperation from authorities in the Kansai region.
To Hiratagakuen, HEMS is more than just a business. The company sees its operations as opportunities to play an active role in contributing to society.
Helicopter emergency operations were extended to night-time hours with the implementation of European Union Regulation No. 965/2012 in October 2014. Such services have developed considerably with use of night vision goggles for pilots.
Almost all regions are covered by HEMS service, with a total fleet of 55 medium-weight twin-engine helicopters. In Italy’s challenging hot-and-high operational conditions, performance is a must – and Airbus is proud to supply 40% of the helicopters. The H145 version, with 22 rotorcraft in service across Italy (as of late 2020), is one of the most used helicopters, with further improvements through Airbus’ introduction of the configuration with a five-blade main rotor.
Among the Italian HEMS operators is Airgreen, which was established in 1986 and has performed HEMS activities on an ongoing basis. Since 1995, it has been in charge of the helicopter rescue service for the Aosta Valley Region, followed by the Piemonte Region from 2003, and the Sardinia Region since 2015. Airgreen has carried out multiple interventions at night, and has health teams dedicated to the transport of human organs.
Babcock MCS Italia is one of the leading operators for HEMS, along with airborne firefighting services and oil/gas missions. It has proven experience and operational capability in carrying out logistically-complex and time-sensitive missions. The company operates at 48 bases throughout Italy, from which 15,600 emergency medical services missions were performed in 2019 for a total of 16,900 patients transported.
Aiut Alpin Dolomites has operated since 1987 for mountain rescue in the Dolomites, and became a not-for-profit association in 1990. Through a partnership with another Italian operator – Star Work Sky, a high-quality service specialised in mountain rescue and ambulance by helicopter – was developed. Services using Airbus-built helicopters began with the single-engine Ecureuil, followed in 2003 by the twin-engine EC135 T2. In 2015, it was the launch customer for the EC135 T3, with this version carrying a 272-kg.-capacity external winch with 90 metres of cable.
Another HEMS provider is Elifriulia. Founded in 1971, it is the longest-running helicopter operator in Italy.
The first of these aircraft arrived in Poland in September 2009, and two months later, it began service from Krakow – kicking off a technical revolution in the Polish Medical Air Service. In 2015, thanks to EU funding, LPR purchased four additional H135s from Airbus so it could establish four new bases in the country. Expanding the number of rotorcraft led to an increase in the availability of rescue helicopters, as well as a reduction in time needed to reach patients.
Today, LPR maintains 22 HEMS bases nationwide (21 permanent and one seasonal), operating a total of 27 H135/EC135 rotorcraft. This service also includes the Airplane Transport Team, stationed in Warsaw. Its crews fly two Piaggio P.180 Avantis, with two new Bombardier Learjet 75s to be received in 2021. Each base employs pilots, doctors, nurses, and paramedics. Some 750 people work for the Polish Medical Air Rescue, including 120 pilots, 100 paramedics and 140 doctors.
The intensive modernisation of Polish HEMS resulted in high standards for medical emergency, with the number of emergency flights rising dramatically. The helicopter teams currently perform over 12,000 missions per year, 88% of which are HEMS flights, primarily responding to accidents. Each team can begin treating patients from arrival and quickly transport them to the nearest hospital within the so-called “golden hour.” The modern H135/EC135 helicopter is able to reach an accident site 60 kilometres away, depending on the wind, within several minutes.
In 2020, LPR crews flew a total of 11,000 missions, 10,650 of which utilised helicopters.
The subsidiary of Mont Blanc Helicopters, MBH SAMU, was founded in 2002 and operates out of nine SAMU bases throughout France – flying over 4,000 flight hours per year in emergency situations. It was the largest HEMS operator in France as of December 2020 – with Marc Blanc’s son, Renaud Blanc, at the helm of the company, making it the only family-run operator in France.
Ensuring its fleet of H135s, H145s and AS365 N3+ is available is paramount to Mont Blanc Helicopters’ activity; 60% of the SAMU bases operate 24 hours a day and all of them operate seven days a week. With the stakes this high, the company needed a way to guarantee their helicopters would be available when called on. They were one of the first customers to sign up for Airbus Parts by the Hour (PBH) – a primary component of the Airbus HCare Smart service offer – and today their entire fleet is covered under PBH contracts.
A long history connects Airbus with HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services) provider Norwegian Air Ambulance, as this Norway-based company’s operations began in the late 1970s with a Bo 105 rotorcraft. More recently, the Norwegian Air Ambulance Foundation became the launch customer for Airbus Helicopters’ H145 with the five-blade main rotor configuration, which provides improved performance.
Establishing an emergency medical service system in a country like Norway is a challenge. It has the world’s longest coastline; and while Norway’s eastern part is more densely populated, the country’s western and northern regions have longer distances between populated areas – as well as poor infrastructure in certain areas. With such conditions, helicopters are perfectly suited for emergency services duties.
The first base for Norwegian Air Ambulance was established in 1978 at Lørenskog near Oslo, utilising a rented Bo 105 from MBB – an Airbus Helicopters predecessor company. There are 13 HEMS bases nationwide today, using Airbus-built H135 and H145 rotorcraft, among others.
Norwegian Air Ambulance operates three bases in the north of the polar circle: Evenes, Tromsø and Kirkenes, close to the Russian boarder. In the wintertime, these bases experience continuous darkness, as well as snow, fog and icing conditions.
The company’s service is 24/7, using night vision goggles for the entire crew. The helicopters perform deployments in the mountains, and the Dombås base regularly flies missions to Galdhøpiggen – Norway’s highest mountain – using an H135. Norwegian Air Ambulance also carries out rescue missions on glaciers, rivers, lakes and in inaccessible terrain.
It has 15 Airbus-built helicopters, and several on order for deliveries (as of 2020). Norwegian Air Ambulance’s 12 bases carried out 9,700 missions in 2019, accounting for 8,879 flight hours. The company employs approximately 60 pilots and 60 HEMS crewmembers.
The foundation will use its first H145 with the five-blade main rotor in research activities to further improve the air ambulance services. According to Eric Normann, the Director of Flight Operations Development, the foundation is planning to carry out “a large variety of medical research projects, from testing small devices that could help the service with its daily work, to more ambitious projects like putting a CT scanner on a helicopter.”
Private donators have fully funded new H145’s acquisition, a fact Norwegian Air Ambulance is very proud of.
ÖAMTC Air Rescue’s helicopters are in service from dawn until the end of evening twilight – seven days a week; while two bases are operated around the clock. “Christophorus 2,” which is based in Krems/Gneixendorf, has been the only emergency medical helicopter in Austria flying in 24-hour operation.
On average, ÖAMTC Air Rescue flies some 52 missions a day. In 2019, almost half of the approximately 18,000 operations were internal and neurological emergencies. A total of 16% were caused by accidents at work, during leisure time or in the domestic environment; followed by leisure time accidents in the Alpine area.
Each rotorcraft has the most modern medical equipment. Since 2019, an ultrasound has been part of the helicopter equipment to detect life-threatening injuries such as internal bleeding in the chest and abdomen.
ÖAMTC Air Rescue has been a partner of Airbus for over 20 years. "The reliability, the high performance and good usability in the alpine environment, as well as the very good support, are factors that make the cooperation particularly interesting,” said Reinhard Kraxner, managing director of ÖAMTC Air Rescue.
SAF Group’s air operations initially were built around the SA315 Lama helicopter, and later with the Alouette III. As the organisation evolved, an agreement was struck between SAF Group, France’s Securité Civile government agency and the French Gendarmerie – which proved to be the beginning of a long and unique para-public collaboration that is still working today.
The SAF Group continued to evolve, and in 2006, it acquired Paris-based HEMS operator Helicap – which also had roots dating back to the 1970s. Combining the HEMS expertise of Helicap with the mountain rescue experience of SAF created a truly formidable team when it came to saving lives in difficult circumstances. As SAF’s CEO Tristan Serretta put it: “Rescuing is in our DNA.”
Today, SAF Group is one of the leaders in HEMS operations, with 15 hospital bases throughout France and its overseas territories. With two full flight simulators, it is dedicated to continuously improving the skills and expertise of its crews.
SAF Group’s current fleet comprises 60 Airbus-built helicopters operating seven days a week for all types of civilian rescue and protection operations, 25 of which are from the H135 family and are dedicated to HEMS and mountain rescue missions. The start of operations of the new five-bladed H145 is planned for this summer 2021 in Belgium.
Overall, SAF Group has transported more than 5,500 patients, carried out over 1,000 mountain rescues and conducted some 7,000 emergency medical service missions last year.
In 2014, the company began looking for an aircraft capable of serving their six bases; they subsequently chose the H145, for a total of nine to be delivered by 2022. “The decision was made to go to a single platform because of safety and economics, particularly in crews’ training needs,” said Robertson.
The company’s missions take them from the Hudson Bay in the north to the Rocky Mountains in the west. “It’s not uncommon for some of our flight profiles to be up to 100 naut. mi. one way – a radius of action in which the H145 shines because of its increased speed,” says STARS pilot John Carson. Based in Calgary, Carson’s work takes him and his co-pilot – plus the medical crew of a nurse and flight paramedic – into the Rockies and beyond.
“Operating on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies, which are prone to warm Chinook winds, can be quite challenging. And operating into them at night is an added challenge,” said Carson. “The H145 cockpit is fabulous on night vision goggles, with fantastic visibility. The 4-axis autopilot serves to decrease pilot workload in certain situations. Increasing situational awareness and safety are the HTAWS (helicopter terrain awareness system) as well as the synthetic vision system. These fantastic pieces of kit shine when we go into our mountain environment.”
“One of the H145’s attributes that we hope not to see is the aircraft’s ability to hold a single-engine service ceiling,” said Carson. “From Calgary, it’s not uncommon for our en route legs to be as high as 10,000 feet. If we lose an engine and the conditions are of an appropriate nature, we can go right over the top in the H145.”
To carry out its work saving lives, STARS has contracts with three provincial governments, under which the company handles medical oversight and is accountable for getting patients to the appropriate level of care. They operate their own dispatch centre, and staff a 24-hour emergency consultation centre. And training is done in-house, too, with experienced pilots like John Carson handling the flight crew’s transition to the new H145s. Paramedics and nurses undergo a different, though equally intensive continuing education programme.
“It’s awe inspiring when you see the professionalism of our team and how seriously they take safety,” added Robertson. “Bringing on a new aircraft is a lot of work. We feel so fortunate to have this great aircraft and it takes a strong group of professionals to do it well and do it safely.
Rega is a not-for-profit private foundation and is financed by donations. With over 3.5 million patrons, it is firmly rooted within the Swiss population. The helicopter fleet includes seven Airbus Helicopters H145s stationed at the lowland bases. In addition, Rega operates an Airbus-built H125 for training purposes. Rega also deploys three ambulance jets, flown worldwide for seriously ill or injured patients.
In addition to Rega’s previous operation of the legacy Alouette III rotorcraft from an Airbus Helicopters predecessor company, it also utilised the first twin-engine ambulance helicopter, the Bo 105.
In 2019, Rega flew a total of 16,782 missions, of which 12,257 were performed with helicopters. Approximately 400 employees – including some 80 helicopter- and jet-rated pilots, along with 110 medical staff – play a decisive role in fulfilling Rega’s goals.
Ernst Kohler, CEO and Chairman of the Management Board, summed up the operator’s overall mission: “With all of the technical progress to date, Rega’s goal still remains the same. We put people at the centre of everything we do and deliver medical assistance by air to wherever it is needed.”
In the United Kingdom, HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services) has evolved during three decades, and its development followed an unusual path based almost entirely on charitable funding. The combination of a lack of central government finance, fierce community pride, and cold financial reality resulted in a unique network of what today is 21 charitable trusts supporting the operation of 39 helicopters throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The services’ genesis was in Cornwall – the remote south-western peninsula of England – where a rural road network, widespread tourism, and a lengthy coastline with rugged terrain make the provision of robust ambulance coverage something that is highly desirable to secure while challenging to achieve.
Acknowledged as the brainchild of former Royal Navy helicopter pilot Geoff Newman, the First Air Ambulance Service Trust (known today as Cornwall Air Ambulance) launched in April 1987. Flying an Airbus legacy Bo 105 rotorcraft provided at reduced rates by Bond Helicopters, it had the encouragement of the Cornwall ambulance service. The first patient was a rock climber with spinal injuries recovered from Porthcurno at the far end of the Cornish peninsula.
Initial funding from the local health authority subsequently was withdrawn, and a new charity – the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust – successfully took over. Newman went on to be a leading figure in the air ambulance movement, and the Cornish success rapidly spawned a succession of comparable operations.
London followed in 1989, where Newman eventually became chief pilot. By 2000, there were 15 regional services in action. More recently, Air Ambulance Northern Ireland launched, with the stand-up occurring in 2017.
Only in Scotland – with its mountainous terrain, far-flung islands and widely dispersed population – is the funding/operating model different. The Scottish Air Ambulance Service is a government-financed arm of the ambulance service operating Airbus-built H145s. Even in this scenario, the provision is supplemented by Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) with two H135s.
Today, air ambulance operations are an integral part of the UK’s “999” service, equivalent to 911 or 112 emergency response elsewhere in the world, and its medical staffs are largely seconded from the National Health Service’s (NHS) regional trusts. Such operations are typically tasked by the NHS, and the role is to deliver a critical-care team to incident scenes, provide care on-site, fly patients to the most appropriate hospitals, and deliver them to the hospital personnel.
The charities’ autonomy has enabled them to experiment rapidly with clinical innovations, such as roadside REBOA (Resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta), a technique for dealing with trauma to the aorta; and ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), a method for dealing with serious illness related to the heart and lungs.
Airbus is proud to supply approximately two-thirds of the UK air ambulance helicopter fleet, including 14 H135s, 11 H145s and two AS365s (status as of late 2020).
Across the country, the HEMS network performs more than 70 missions per day, of which about 32% are medical emergencies – most commonly cardiac-related; and 68% are traumatic injuries, still the most common cause of death among people under 40 years of age in England. At an average cost of £2,500 each, the 25,000 missions annually require more than £60 million in funding, virtually all of which is provided by charitable donations.
An umbrella campaigning body – Air Ambulances UK – represents the charities as a lobbyist and undertakes national fundraising campaigns, which the individual charities can capitalise upon. It persuaded the government to eliminate VAT (value-added tax) on air ambulance fuel, and has repeatedly secured ad hoc grants from the administration: most recently a £6 million cash injection was made as the COVID-19 pandemic reduced charitable giving.
An important continuing issue for UK HEMS is the provision of, and consistent access to, helicopter landing sites. Another charity, set up by the County Air Ambulance Trust in the English midlands in 2009 and called the HELP appeal, has achieved great success in funding new sites at hospitals and major trauma centres. Some 40 helipads have been financed by the charity, including a night-capable site in 2020 at Hull Royal Infirmary, with another 40 projects in the pipeline.
Compared to Europe and the U.S., Chinese HEMS is still in the early stages of development and is working to form an effective, sustainable business model. In addition, factors such as low-altitude airspace restrictions and the small number of standard helipads have limited the development of HEMS in China to a certain extent.
Facing such challenges, Wuhan Yaxin Hospital worked closely with general aviation companies, partner hospitals, local civil aviation authorities, airspace management and other departments to form a unique operating model where regular citizens can dial a hotline to request helicopter rescue services.
Under this model, medical crews ensure the patient’s medical safety during an air transfer, while the flight crew is responsible for flight safety. Two groups of personnel are on standby 24 hours a day, ready to take off at a moment’s notice.
Other initiatives include the formation of an air rescue alliance with more than 40 surrounding hospitals, with the goal of creating better treatment conditions while gaining valuable time. But in a country where individuals must pay their own air rescue transport, the high cost is a barrier to many. To tackle this, the hospital supports the creation of appropriate payment processes that would make HEMS more broadly accessible.
“For example, government support, insurance participation, charity assistance, and collaboration with other companies and parties could jointly support the development of China's aviation medical service," said Su Xi, president of Wuhan Yaxin General Hospital. “We are committed to building a service that is affordable to the average person, enabling our HEMS rescue platform to truly fly for everyone.”