General aviation

BC Interior to get 24-hour Air Ambulance helicopter coverage

Summit Helicopters’ new Bell 412EPI sits between patients at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, British Columbia (photo: Summit Helicopters).

Critically ill patients needing 24-hour transportation in British Columbia’s rugged and vast Central Interior will soon have a new option as Summit Helicopters certifies its Aviation Night Vision Imaging System aboard its BC Air Ambulance helicopter this fall.

“With our new aircraft and advanced navigation systems, [BC Emergency Health Services] will deliver a greater level of care than ever before,” said Steven Williams, Chief IFR Pilot for Summit Helicopters. “This new aircraft is ideally suited for the regions of BC in which we operate.”

The night vision system is being certified on Summit’s brand-new Bell 412EPI helicopter, which the company deployed in May as part of its renewed contract for air ambulance services in the province’s Interior. Based in Kamloops, it is one of four air ambulance helicopters in the province. Others are based in Vancouver, and Prince Rupert, and already have night vision capability.

Typically, night vision systems are deployed on search and rescue and police aircraft.

Since the new helicopter was deployed in late May, it has transported 45 critically ill or injured patients.

The new Bell helicopter has room for six people – two stretchers, two paramedics and two pilots – and Summit is the first commercial customer for the Canadian-made 412EPI. The Coast Guard was the first to use the type in Canada.

The Bell 412EPI responds after a hail storm on the Coquihalla Highway in July (photo: Twitter/BCHES Fight Paramedics).

“This aircraft features the latest in safety enhancements, an integrated avionics suite with a glass cockpit and electronically-controlled engines,” said Steven Williams, Chief IFR Pilot for Summit Helicopters. “The EPI offers vastly increased performance and safety margins required for the challenging role and terrain in which we fly.”

Summit has held the air ambulance contract for seven years, and says it has responded to more than 2,000 medical emergencies in that time.

“This new helicopter is supporting patients across the Interior for both critical hospital transfers and emergency 9-1-1 responses,” said Paul Vallely, BCEHS’s Senior Provincial Director of Patient Care, in a statement.

BC’s air ambulance service also has seven fixed-wing aircraft, based in various cities around the province.

About 2,000 patients were transported by air ambulance last year, according to figures reported by BCEHS. About 10% of all air ambulance transports are emergency 9-1-1 responses completed by air ambulance helicopters.

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