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20 May 2020
20. May 2020 Helicopters

Christoph Zammert: How Airbus is helping frontline helicopter operators in the fight against COVID-19

Poland’s Lotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe (Polish Medical Air Rescue) uses an H135 to transfer a Covid-19 patient.

Photo credits: Fondation de l’Academie de Medicine (FAM), Heli Austria, Helibras, and Lotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe (Polish Medical Air Rescue)

Airbus Helicopters' Executive Vice-President Customer Support & Services, Christoph Zammert discusses how Airbus is helping frontline helicopter operators in the fight against COVID-19.

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ince the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been humbled and impressed by how our helicopter operators have risen to the challenge of combatting the most wide-ranging health crisis to hit our planet in modern times. 

Whether emergency medical services (EMS), police, search and rescue or military organisations, they have one sole goal in mind: saving lives, every single day.

As the manufacturer of their vertical lift solutions, it is our responsibility at Airbus to provide them with the elevated levels of service required to keep their operations running, such as technical and logistics support, while supporting them in finding new solutions to protect the health of their pilots and crews. A couple weeks ago we wrote about our early initiatives on Airbus.com. And this resolute work continues.

Protecting helicopter pilots and crews

Since the beginning, we’ve been collaborating closely with EASA and the European Helicopter Association (EHA), providing our support and recommendations whenever possible. Most recently, we have put in place a dedicated team of Airbus EMS experts to provide efficient advice to customers working the front line.  

We’ve also found opportunities to team up with operators, suppliers and regulators to make available protective solutions that shield pilots and crews from contamination, while eliminating or reducing the turnaround time for helicopter disinfection following transport of a COVID-19 patient. These have taken the form of patient isolation devices (PIDs), cabin/cockpit separation solutions, protective covers, and disinfectant guidelines, among others.

Helibras recently helped adapt a PID manufactured by a local supplier for the small cabin of the H125. PIDs are the most sophisticated type of protective unit available because they contain the patient environment and eliminate the need for disinfection.

Helibras recently helped adapt a PID manufactured by a local supplier for the small cabin of the H125. PIDs are the most sophisticated type of protective unit available because they contain the patient environment and eliminate the need for disinfection.

For example, our subsidiary in Brazil, Helibras, recently helped adapt a PID manufactured by a local supplier for the small cabin of our intermediate single-engine H125. PIDs are the most sophisticated type of protective unit available because they contain the patient environment and eliminate the need for disinfection. The installation was tested by operators with extensive experience in EMS missions and finally authorized by Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) for all helicopter types. The device is produced in accordance with international standards by a local supplier that is responsible for its approval towards health authorities.

Also of note, DRF Luftrettung has already equipped six of its light-twin H145 helicopters with the Epishuttle PID, with five more following soon. In total, the operator has transported more than 100 COVID-19 patients, mainly inter-hospital transports.

H135 used to transport Covid-19 patient.

A partnership with Airbus Foundation, Fondation de l’Academie de Medicine (FAM), and operator Babcock helped support the certification of the B.R.A.V.E. Covid-19 protective units for use on H135 helicopters.

In the same vein, we’ve partnered with the Airbus Foundation, the French Fondation de l’Academie de Medicine (FAM), and operator Babcock to support the certification of the B.R.A.V.E. Covid-19 protective units spearheaded by the CHU Dijon Bourgogne and a local French company, Bache 21, for use on H135 helicopters. 

This transparent cover can be installed on the upper half of a stretcher to protect the pilots and crew and reduce disinfection times, meaning more transfers and missions completed per day.  Already 24 of these have been outfitted for the French SAMU, with five more on order. And we are actively working with authorities in other countries in hopes of making this solution more widely available.

Likewise, we’ve seen a greater number of customers installing cabin-cockpit separations to protect pilots from the cabin. Back in April we had already identified and communicated options available in local markets for the H135/H145 as well as the AS332/H225 fleet. Since then, new solutions have been published for the medium AS365, H155 and H175 and our light H125, BO105 and BK117. Customers now flying with such cabin-cockpit separations include Heli Austria and Poland’s Lotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe (Polish Medical Air Rescue).

 

Heli Austria has installed cabin-cockpit separations to protect pilots from the cabin.

Heli Austria has installed cabin-cockpit separations to protect pilots from the cabin.

The power of data analytics for helicopter operators

With operations stressed to the limit, helping customers better manage their fleets via data analytics is a promising new area.

During the COVID-19 crisis, we have been assisting our EMS operators in transferring their data seamlessly from their site of operations to the Airbus Helicopters data platform.

Accompanying this data transfer is our Fleet Monitoring website application, available from the AirbusWorld collaborative customer portal. This data analytics service provides overviews of flight sessions and associated usage parameters such as cycles, engines counters and events; data quality and consistency checks; and fleet airworthiness status.

For EMS customers like Hungarian Air Ambulance and HTM Helicopters, our in-house experts analyzed their data on a daily basis in the early weeks of the crisis, thereby easing their data analysis workload by 70 percent, allowing them to focus entirely on their life-saving operations. Our Flight Analyser application is at the heart of these analyses, automatically processing flight data and detecting potential incidents before they lead to potential accidents.

All of this data was available to our technical support teams, ensuring that when they received a customer query, they had the latest data at their fingertips.

There is still much more to be done, but thanks to the agile initiatives and collaboration among operators, regulators, and manufacturers, we’ve been able to take swift action in responding to our customers’ needs while putting the safety of our people and patients first. We look forward to continuing this support.                                                               

In 2018, two of the US’s largest EMS transport providers - Air Medical Group Holdings and American Medical Response – combined to form Global Medical Response (GMR). The company’s six air-based subsidiaries and dozens of ground ambulances now provide emergency medical transport for 46 states and the District of Columbia.

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