The Two Types of Air Ambulance
An air ambulance is a custom configured helicopter or fixed wing aircraft that transports both emergency and non-emergency patients from one location to another. An air ambulance is used when distances or terrain make it impractical to use a conventional ground ambulance to transport sick or injured people. An air ambulance has medical equipment for monitoring and treating injured or ill patients, and is staffed by a medical team trained to care for the specific needs of patients.
An air ambulance can either be part of government-funded air medical service, or private companies that offer medical air transportation services on a fee-for-service basis. In this article, we will focus on the types of air ambulances used by private air medical flight providers.
- Rotary-Wing Air Ambulances – This aircraft type refers to helicopters since the term rotary-wing refers to the rotating wings or “blades” of a helicopter when it’s flying. A helicopter is used to transport patients over relatively short distances. A major advantage of a helicopter air ambulance is their ability to land in greater variety of locations such as roads, paved areas, parks or fields, in rural areas or cramped urban environments, and other locations where restrictions in space will not be a hindrance. However, since helicopters have a relatively short travel range, they are primarily used for emergency cases in which a patient who requires immediate medical care can be transported as quickly as possible.
- Fixed-Wing Air Ambulances – This aircraft type can refer to either propeller-driven or jet-powered aircraft with wings that do not move or are “fixed” in a specific part of the aircraft. A major advantage of a fixed-wing aircraft is having a spacious cabin area that allows it to have advanced medical equipment that provide critical care and life support for patients. Fixed-wing aircraft typically have more cabin space than helicopters and can accommodate additional medical staff and some patient traveling companions if desired.
Propeller-driven aircraft can usually travel much longer distances than most helicopters, but they cannot match the speed and range that jet aircraft offer. That’s why medium-sized business jets that have been specifically modified for air medical transport services have become an important part of the air ambulance fleet of many air medical flight providers. A jet aircraft can transport patients across long distances at faster speeds, higher altitudes and with fewer refueling stops, thus making it possible to avoid turbulence and bad weather conditions. All of this means faster and more comfortable trips to the patient’s destination.
Which Type of Air Ambulance is Better?
If you are thinking of hiring an air medical transport provider, one of the first questions you might ask is “which type of air ambulance do I need?” The answer will depend on the particular circumstances of your case. The company will take into account the patient’s medical condition, the distance to the destination and the urgency of the patient’s case. Make sure you tell the provider all the facts and information about the patient’s condition so the provider can help you make an informed choice about the type of air ambulance that you’ll need.
Alia MedFlight is available to provide a quote or to answer any questions you might have about air ambulance services. We invite you to contact us or give us a call at 602-800-7070.
Alia MedFlight’s aircraft are operated in cooperation with FAR Part 135 certificate holder Swift Aircraft Management, LLC, certificate #75JA243N. Swift Aircraft Management exercises full operational control over all Alia MedFlight transports.