Air medical associations ask for relief

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The Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS) and Air Medical Operators Association (AMOA) have requested relief for their members in response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AMAO Executive Director, Sally Veith asked for relief from regulatory time restrictions for air medical operators, pilots and mechanics from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Over 90% of air medical transports in the United States are operated by AMOA, utilising a fleet of more than 1,100 air medical aircraft. Veith commented, “Transporting sick patients to a higher level of care is what we do. As the COVID-19 virus moves through our nation, we are called to continue providing lifesaving missions for those in need whether stricken by the virus or other health emergencies.”

However, the restrictions that have been issued throughout the country have impacted AAMS and AMOA services, especially on the training of air medical pilots due to a lack of FAA inspectors.

With the renewal pilot medical certificates and authorisation for mechanics in jeopardy, AMAO plans to submit a petition to exempt the regulatory requirements as without it, certificate holders would not be able to exercise the privileges of the certificates. Without them, it “may hinder air medical response capabilities during the current national health emergency,” said Veith.

AAMS have requested aiding with tax and funding to support its members facing this challenge. The company’s President and CEO commented, “Our AAMS memners are working diligently on the front lines to provide critical care in communities around the world and to ensure the transportation needs of our patients can and will continue to be met.”

London Heliport closed as a precaution

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London Heliport in Battersea, South London having sought advice from the Public Health England and Commonwealth office, due to the the COVID-19 pandemic, has announced that it will halt all operations at its site with immediate effect. The London Heliport will not be accepting any forward bookings.

According to a press release the heliport will not be able to provide full services until the nationwide lock-down is lifted. The duration of the closure will be at least until 13 April, when an evaluation on the situation will take place, if deemed necessary.

A spokesman said that operations will recommence in the future and will consistently ensure that our clients and stakeholders are updated with any changes, as soon as information is released.

London Heliport General Manager Simon Hutchins stated: “We would like to recognise the hard work and dedication of our team at the heliport. Everyone has been working tirelessly to ensure we adhere to Government guidance at all times.”

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Airbus Helicopters resume production

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Airbus Helicopters has begun to restart production with the added precautions against the COVID-19 virus, despite an expected drop in available workers.

The entire factory in Marignane, France had closed for four days but has resumed work since 23 March 2020. However, the OEM has stated that a work station does not reopen until it is deemed safe. If it does not meet the required standards, the company will conduct work to create the right level of safety.

The measures that Airbus Helicopters is taking include social distancing, keeping doors open where possible and disinfectant being accessible where the toilets are too far. Additionally, employees are directed to work at separated areas on the helicopter, and to use masks during flight testing. The company runs with two shifts that do not meet, with a three-hour period between to clean.

Only 15% of Airbus Helicopters employees were working on site as of 23 March, with another 50% working from home. According to a spokesperson, these numbers have marginally grown since the restart of operations.

Global Medical Response

Global Medical Response rescues Texas

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Global Medical Response

Global Medical Response (GMR) has announced a multi-year agreement with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX).

BCBSTX members will gain in-network access to GMR’s emergency air medical transports, covering all 354 counties in Texas and including services including AeroCare, Air Evac Lifeteam, Methodist Aircare and REACH Air Medical.  Members will also be provided non-emergency services from AirMed International.

“More than 3 million Texans live in a rural area where access to a Level 1 or 2 trauma centre can be more than an hour away by ground ambulance, and emergency air medical transports serve as a safety net where access to care is limited due to the closure of more and more of the state’s rural hospitals,” stated Steve Dralle, President of South Region.

GMR companies provide over 12,000 air medical transports in Texas each year and combined with other in-network agreements, Medicare and Medicaid, will mean that 82% of GMR’s Texas emergent air transports are covered.

Editor’s Comment: Teamwork – it just works

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It’s well known that working as a team makes things easier, no matter what the situation. But forgetting the squabbles and infighting is particularly important when saving a life, like in a HEMS unit. The people in those units are focused on only one thing – making sure the patient stays alive and gets to hospital.

The steady rise in the number of HEMS outfits across Europe could see services competing against one another, perhaps to the detriment of the service. Thank heavens then that the industry has taken a more sensible approach.

An example of this came during an announcement by Bruno Bagnoud, founder of Swiss AIR-GLACIERS SA. He retired from the company on his 85th birthday but indicating the obligation that HEMS owners feel to the public, it was revealed that AIR ZERMATT and AIR-GLACIERS are to merge. This provides a unique opportunity for two leading companies that provide helicopter rescues within Switzerland’s Valais region. Bagnoud said the time to go it alone was over. The two company brands will remain, but they will aim to become even better and more efficient due to their common goals.

AIR-GLACIERS SA operates mainly in central Valais and Bas-Valais, while AIR ZERMATT AG focuses its efforts in the Haut-Valais region. Both will stay at their current operating facilities and will keep their respective management teams.

This perfect partnership brings the opportunity for two pioneering Valaisan air rescue services, created by Bruno Bagnoud and Beat H. Perren, to benefit all those in the region.

Let’s hope that more partnerships like this across all aspects of the helicopter industry are created for the advantage of operators, crews and those who may find themselves in distress high on a mountain side, straining to hear the comforting sound of thrashing rotors, and knowing that help is on the way.


Babcock beats competitors for offshore deal

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Helicopter operator Babcock has announced a new five year contract with Integrated Aviation Consortium (IAC) for three oil and gas operators in the North Sea.

Babcock will initiate the agreement by operating over 100 offshore helicopter flights per month from Sumburgh in Shetland on behalf of CNR International, EnQuest and TAQA, expected to commence 1 July 2020.

The operator is expected to use Sikorsky S-92 heavy-twins to take oil workers to and from oil installations in the North Sea. The contract also includes fixed-wing services by Loganair from Aberdeen to Sumburgh, where the operations were previously based and led by Bristow Airways.

Babcock Offshore Director, Simon Meakins stated, “We are delighted to welcome this new customer group to Babcock Offshore and look forward to working with them. We are committed to delivering the safe and efficient aviation support they require.”

Safran Helicopter Engines

Safran strives for sustainable aviation biofuels

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Safran Helicopter Engines

Safran Helicopter Engines will begin deliberating the feasibility of producing aviation biofuels in southwest France, collaborating with Euralis, Teréga, ACD, Chemparc, Agri Aud Ouest Innovation, Xylofutur, CCI Pau Béarn, Pau and Pays de l’Adour.

A letter of Intent (LOI) has been signed and aims to evaluate local capabilities and skills in areas such as agriculture, chemicals and energy in order to produce and distribute sustainable aviation biofuels. The project is expected to benefit airports, air bases and industries with a new sustainable certified fuel source.

The project has been described as a necessary action towards carbon neutrality by 2020. Franck Saudo, CEO of Safran Helicopter Engines said, “Safran is committed to an industry that treats the environment with greater respect. Success in this ecological transition will evolve from expertise in several technologies…Our ambition to create this local biofuel source will satisfy the latter objective. And our engine test facilities will help us develop even more advanced alternative fuels.” The manufacturer is currently investigating other projects including hybrid-electric power, optimised turboshaft designs and alternative fuels.

Aerospace Valley President, Yann Barbaux commented, “Reducing air transport’s environmental footprint is a top priority for all of us in the Aerospace Valley group. Introducing non-fossil fuels will help us to achieve this objective and bring greater prosperity to our region.”

Biofuels emit less carbon from production to consumption than conventional kerosene, and agriculture is a vital part of the process in its creation. Euralis CEO, Christian Pèes stated, “Over ten years, in collaboration with our regional partners, we have developed the production of ethanol in southwest France. With this valuable experience, we are ready to commit to the creation of this aviation biofuel source.”

The Safran group is involved in almost all areas of aircraft production, therefore have the power to heavily influence the implementation of aviation biofuels. It aims to reduce its environmental footprint and make its engines compatible with alternative fuels by 2030-2035.

Ansat stays afloat

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The installation of the Emergency Floatation System on Ansat helicopter has been certified by the Federal Air Transport Agency, Rosaviatsiya.

The system is designed to aid emergency water landing and is used to save lives of both crew and passengers. By installing the Emergency Floatation System, helicopters will be capable to fly at a considerable distance from the coast and benefit search and rescue operations. However, it remains optional to add it or not.

It was tested at the flight and test complex of Kazan Helicopters, assessing different factors of the helicopter performance, efficiency and success. Tests focused on its operation with packed and filled ballonets, on the ground, life raft activation and emergency exit procedures.

Ansat received certification of the reduction in airworthiness limitations of its main parts which results in a reduced cost to replace the parts and in helicopter maintenance.

“I would like to emphasise that due to this system, Ansat helicopter provides for safe evacuation of passengers and the crew to life rafts in case of ditching,” stated Managing Director of Kazan Helicopters, Yuri Pustovgarov.

iAero Yeovil

Somerset steps up in the aviation industry

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iAero Yeovil

A “cutting-edge” aerospace innovation centre, iAero, has been constructed in Yeovil to present Somerset’s commitment to the aerospace industry.

Somerset County Council is working with companies such as Leonardo Helicopters and local partners on the iAero Centre. Willmott Dixon, contractors owned by Leonardo, began the construction in 2019 and aim for it to be fully operational by 2021.

It is expected that the construction will encourage “innovation, collaboration and growth in the aerospace sector”, making Yeovil a significant contributor in the aerospace sector in the UK. Partners in the iAero Centre programme signed a steel column during a special ceremony to signify “a significant milestone in this major and exciting project” commented Councilor David Hall, Cabinet Member for Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure.

It is hoped that iAero will aid the economic prosperity for Somerset by increasing job prospects, as well as benefiting the UK’s aerospace industry. Rob Woolcock, Director of Willmott Dixon has claimed that the company has engaged with over 850 local young people, many visiting the site to learn more about the project. Additionally, the company has offered three Yeovil College students work experience placements and provided several people with long-term employment.

Woolcock commented, “This work is important to us as a business, as we want to make sure that our projects deliver the greatest impact for the local community, and they help inspire the next generation.

The iAero Centre is being supported by Somerset County Council, the European Regional Development Fund who offered over £3m, and the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership who put £3.4m towards the project. The European Regional Development Fund looks to stimulate economic development which creates jobs and local community regenerations.

“As the world faces an increasing climate emergency – innovation, technology and skill will be needed to rise to the challenges of our modern world. iAero will bring together partnerships, people and projects under one roof,” said Sarah Cook, Leonardo’s VP for UK Government Business. “Cutting-edge ideas and dynamic technologies will form the research development and innovation that takes place; exploring and experimenting, utilizing and developing skills. The future will be created here and that creates a prosperous future for our wider community.”

Guardian Flight helps hospitals in Alaska

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Global Medical Response (GMR) company, Guardian Flight, has announced it will open its first rotor wing base at Kenai Municipal Airport, Alaska in spring 2020.


The Airbus H125 helicopter will begin to serve Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula’s hospitals such as South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna and Providence Seward Medical Center in Seward.


“GMR and Guardian Flight Alaska are pleased to expand our service to now include helicopter support for emergency patient airlifts in addition to interfacility transfers,” said GMR VP of Northwest Operations, Jared Sherman. “We greatly appreciate the warm welcome our helicopter team has received from the communities we serve and the medical community.”


The base will operate 24 hours, accommodating a crew of four pilots, four clinicians and two mechanics with room to carry a pilot, patient, nurse and paramedic as well as necessary medical equipment.


Guardian’s first helicopter air medical base will join 11 fixed wing medically equipped aircraft that serve across Alaska. The company is also a provider in the AirMedCare Network (AMCN), the nation’s largest air medical transport membership programme, which means that it will fly threateningly injured or ill members for no flight cost, only relying on the member’s insurance as a payment. This program reaches more than 320 air medical location across 38 states.