New EMS Helicopters Selected for New Zealand's South Island Service

The aim of a 10-year modernization program is to build a national integrated network that covers all of New Zealand, is well connected with other emergency services, is available around the clock, and is safer and more appropriately clinically resourced, according to the Health Ministry.

Airbus announced this week that Helicopter Emergency Medical Services New Zealand Limited has selected the Airbus H145 helicopter, in response to the New Zealand Health Ministry's call to enhance its helicopter emergency medical services industry. The ministry, the Accident Compensation Corporation, and district health boards, through the National Ambulance Sector Office (NASO), has embarked on a 10-year modernization program for the country's air ambulance services. The aim is to build a national integrated network that covers all of New Zealand, is well connected with other emergency services, is available around the clock, and is safer and more appropriately clinically resourced, according to the ministry.

The demand for air ambulance helicopter services in the country has been rising and is expected to continue to increase. The current air ambulance helicopter fleet has an average age of 29 years, and with increasing aviation and clinical compliance requirements and many of the helicopters currently in use for medical emergencies being smaller, single-engine helicopters which do not allow full access to the patient for treatment, new acquisitions of more modern- double-engine helicopters are needed. The single-engine helicopters also do not meet Civil Aviation Rules, which limits flying over urban areas.

"Air ambulance services are more than a transport service. They play a critical role in how we respond to health emergencies," said Andy Inder, the ministry's manager, Community and Ambulance. "A good air ambulance service has four key elements: optimal time, appropriate clinical crew, the right equipment, and the right destination. With these working together well, patient outcomes can be improved."

NASO is managed jointly by the Ministry of Health and the Accident Compensation Corporation. Airbus' announcement said two H145s are due to be delivered in the second half of 2019. They will become the first HEMS-configured H145s to enter New Zealand and will provide air ambulance services in the nation's south. They will be operated on the South Island by the consortium formed by Helicopters Otago (Dunedin) and GCH Aviation (Christchurch) and will become the flagship of their already in-service fleets of the BK117 and EC145.

Graeme Gale of Helicopters Otago said the twin-engine H145 "was our natural choice for offering air ambulance services. Airbus' industry-leading safety features, reliability, and importantly, excellent internal space and rear clam shell doors, makes the H145 the perfect air ambulance, suited for any weather condition."

With a global fleet of more than 1,400 helicopters of the H145 family, the fleet has accumulated more than five million flight hours. In New Zealand alone, there are currently 41 H145 family of helicopters deployed for aeromedical, search-and-rescue, utility and business aviation purposes.

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