Feature story The EC145 is Quickly Becoming an Air Ambulance Standard

September 28, 2006 - Just two years after its introduction in North America, the EC145 is becoming a standard aircraft for U.S. air medical service (AMS) operators. In fact, EC145s have been purchased and - in some cases, already deployed - by AMS operators such as: Pennsylvania's EmergyCare/LifeStar, UMass Memorial Medical Center's LifeFlight, MedLink Air (Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center in Lacross, Wisconsin), Allegheny General Hospital's LifeFlight AMS, STAT MedEvac, Travis County STAR Flight, Vanderbilt LifeFlight, and Lee County Emergency Medical Services.

"There are over 25 EC145s currently in operation or booked for AMS providers throughout the United States," explained Terri Ragsdale, American Eurocopter's Air Medical Marketing Specialist. "The reason is simple: The EC145 is ideally suited to the AMS mission. This is why we see strong potential for multiple additional sales in the United States by year's end."

Vanderbilt LifeFlight serves middle Tennessee, southern Kentucky, and northern Alabama - including on-call medical airlift support for the 101st Airborne and other military personnel Fort Campbell.

Described by independent news source as "the leading model in medical air transport," the EC145 is powered by twin Turbomeca ARRIEL 1E2 engines that deliver a fast cruise speed of 132 kts. Besides its speed, advanced MEGHAS glass cockpit and exceptional all-round visibility, the EC145 is notable for its extra-large cabin.

In fact, depending on the air medical service configuration chosen, the EC145 can carry one or two patients, plus two pilots and medical personnel.

The helicopter's overall mission capabilities - including the usable interior space, performance, and reliability - were factors in the U.S. Army's designation of its UH-145 military version as the service's new Light Utility Helicopter. Army planning calls for up to 322 UH145s to be ordered from the EADS North America-led industry team, replacing Vietnam-era UH-1 Huey and OH-58 A/C Kiowa helicopters.

STAT MedEvac of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - the largest private rotary wing AMS provider in the United States - has already deployed three EC145s, has a fourth on order, and is considering acquiring two more. Currently, STAT MedEvac uses 22 American Eurocopter EC135s, EC145s, BK117s, and AS355s to serve western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and New York State.

"The EC135 is the workhorse of STAT MedEvac's fleet," said Jim Bothwell, President of STAT MedEvac. "However, for those situations where we need extra lifting capacity and interior space - during the transport of cardiac patients with circulatory assistance equipment and the technicians to operate it, for instance - we need the added lift and room that the EC145 delivers."

STAR (Shock Trauma Air Rescue) Flight, an AMS helicopter unit operated by Travis County in Texas, has decided to upgrade its fleet by replacing its current two rotorcraft with larger, heavier-lifting EC145s. "We put out an RFP for heavy-lift helicopters that could handle a mix of EMS, search and rescue (SAR), firefighting, and law enforcement support missions," explained Willy Culberson, STAR Flight's director of aviation. "We looked at all the helicopters that were available in this class, and saw that the EC145 best met our mission parameters."

With the challenging mission flown by STAR Flight, its operations will benefit from the EC145's combination of safety features, tremendous capabilities, and high performance. "It will help STAR Flight do our job even better than before," Culberson added.

The EC145 flown by Florida's Lee County Emergency Medical Services was the first such unit delivered in North America. Its purchase allowed the County to redeploy its existing American Eurocopter BO105 to a backup role.

"Our BO105 has been a solid aircraft, and it has met the county's needs for many years," said Rick O'Neal, the chief pilot for Lee County Emergency Medical Services. "With the progress in medical care, the EC145 offers many operational advantages for us, including a larger cabin and the ability to accommodate additional equipment."

Based on its quick uptake in the U.S. market, the EC145 is clearly a preferred choice of AMS operators here. "This is why we expect to see many more EC145s flying AMS missions in U.S. skies," concluded American Eurocopter's Terri Ragsdale. "The EC145 is simply the right aircraft for the job."

• View the News archive for other stories.