Helicopter Operations

Helicopter air ambulance operations conducted between airports or certified heliports are essentially no different from aeroplane operations. Operations from austere or unprepared sites, however, do require special consideration and, although not common in Canada, some ambulance services may wish to be prepared for such an eventuality in the event of an emergency. Operations from such sites, particularly at night, require careful planning and a number of factors should be considered. United States Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular 135-14 entitled "Emergency Medical Services/Helicopter (EMS/H)" provides a useful summary of these factors, some of which are outlined below:

  1. A moveable search light capable of operation without the pilot having to remove his hands from the controls;
  2. Air to ground communications with persons on the landing site;
  3. Restraining devices for preventing patients from interfering with the flight controls (patients are less likely to be stabilized prior to transfer);
  4. An intercommunications system between flight crew and medical personnel
  5. A wire strike protection system;
  6. Weather minima;
  7. Landing site evaluation procedures;
  8. Training of personnel in loading and unloading the helicopter with rotors turning; and
  9. Training of at-the-scene ground personnel (involves police, ambulance attendants etc. in landing site selection and marking; weather estimation, hazards to landing, loading, etc.).
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