24 January 2012

Bell 206 L-4 Long Ranger Medical Evacuation #nlpoli

For those following the story on the helicopter used for medical evacuation in the province, here is the one people are talking about.

It’s the Long Ranger version of the Bell 206.  The one in the video below is operated by a medical centre in the United States.  You’ll find 206 L-4’s and later versions like the Bell 407 in use across North America.

Note the size of the cabin. 

Can’t store oxygen except on top of the patient?  Can’t move around enough to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation or intubation without landing the aircraft? That doesn’t sound right if the aircraft is properly configured.

Bear in mind that the 206 L-4 is a light helicopter.  Others in the same class – Eurocopter EC-135 or EC-145 – offer comparable space. Sure that patient’s feet are forward in the space that would be occupied by a co-pilot in another configuration but the main cabin area seems to have quite a bit of room.  Again, that’s if the aircraft is properly configured.

Just to give you another perspective, here’s a video of a medical evacuation for a traffic accident victim using a Bell 407.  That’s essentially the 206 L-4 with a different engine and some other minor changes.

Skip through to about the 3:45 point in the video when someone opens the access door.  You can now see the patient in position and get a good idea of the space in the main part of the cabin.

So far the information in the public domain is pretty skimpy.  You can’t tell if this is a real issue or just part of the pre-budget circus of demands and requests.

The union representing the aero-medical staff hasn’t really described the problem very effectively.  Maybe the  problem is the way the aircraft is fitted out, as opposed to the complete failure of the type.  After all, 206s have been in use as air ambulances for decades in this province.

The union also hasn’t proposed what type of aircraft they think would meet the need if the Long Ranger can’t do it. If the 206/407 can’t cut it, how big a helicopter do they need?

According to the CBC online story the union is saying that “consideration should be given to a helicopter similar to those used in search and rescue and offshore.”

That would certainly solve the space problem, but the overall capability of the helicopter (EH-101 or S-92) is way beyond what you typically see in the air ambulance role. The operating cost would be huge in comparison to the 206/407 type.  Outside of Cougar Helicopters, no company in the province operates S-92s and the EH-101 is only used by the Royal Canadian Air Force search and rescue squadrons.

- srbp -