in Business Aviation / Features

Aero medical services 'in need of urgent treatment'

Posted 25 October 2015 · Add Comment

Samantha Wellard travels to Nuremburg to meet the world's largest air ambulance fixed-wing operator.

Civil aviation authorities in Africa need to develop a way to fast-track permit requests for air ambulance and medevac missions.
That was the message taken to AfBAA in Addis Ababa by the world’s largest fixed-wing air ambulance operator.
Headquartered at Albrecht Dürer International Airport, near Nuremberg, FAI Rent-a-Jet is Germany’s largest general aviation operator in terms of fleet utilisation, the second largest in fleet size, and the largest Learjet operator outside of the Americas. While the statistics remain impressive, the real marvel comes from its work around the world on life saving air ambulance missions.
Performing two medical evacuations per day on average last year, and operating on special mission services for the world’s largest non-governmental organisation (NGO), FAI predicts a revenue of $45 million from the air ambulance division alone in 2015. There were 778 air ambulance missions in the last 12 months – 124 to African emergencies – and many were into hostile territory.
Volker Lemke, FAI director of sales and marketing, said many missions were put at risk by a lack of awareness of the urgency by some African civil aviation authorities. “We need to get a system where permits are fast-tracked and not something left for four days, which puts the patients life at risk,” he said.
Travel insurance companies pay for the majority of FAI’s air ambulance flights, when patients require transportation and a full medical team to escort them back to their home country.
During the air ambulance peak season – over the summer months – each aircraft works three-and-a-half missions before touching down at the home base. Lemke continued: “It is up to the operator to optimise his logistics to give good quality and be paid for it.”
FAI not only equips each ambulance with the technology to fully care for a patient while in the air, but also provides a medical team to accompany the patient.
Lemke said: “We have five nurses employed full-time as well as a huge pool of around 100 freelancer staff. We insist on on-going clinical practice for these people.”
Six of FAI’s 21 jets are equipped for special mission services for the world’s largest NGO. On these missions, FAI has provided air support in hostile areas all over the world, including Africa.
Lemke said: “We are well known for being the busiest operator for difficult areas of the world.”
FAI not only acts as a medical service and transportation home for those in crisis zones, but it also provides transportation for relief teams going to and from the areas.
FAI was active during last year’s Ebola outbreak in Africa. It had three aircraft stationed in the areas most affected, ready to provide medical technology and transportation quickly and efficiently.
However, Lemke was clear that, despite FAI’s well-equipped aircraft, it was not able to offer the same amount of care as the military. “Very often we were asked to move out Ebola patients but [for safety reasons] we refused to do that.”
Yet FAI continued to provide a service, helping those injured, suffering from other diseases such as Malaria, or, on two occasions, moving Ebola patients within the first 24 hours of contraction, before the patient became contagious.   
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