HEMS in the DNA: the Airbus H145 experience

HEMS in the DNA: the Airbus H145 experience

We talked about the aeromedical features of the light twin helicopter with Belluno SUEM 118 Director Dr. Cipolotti: the secrets of the H145"Falco" (I-SUEM) which flies HEMS mission in Northern Italy

by Stefano Silvestre

Who designed and built it branded it as "ready for duty". And maybe that’s not just another advertising slogan, because doctors do agree with Airbus’ tag line for the new H145 light twin helicopter. Modularity and versatility are the focal points that have already bought the H145 a big spot in the HEMS’ skies of in Italy. That's really a huge news for the latest heir of a family of a helicopter that traces its origin back to the iconic BK-117.

After the entry into service in mid-2015, the H145 is now active in a number of different regions in Italy with an availability rate in line with Airbus’ standards (around 90%) and, more important, the H145 performed its tasks right from the start without any significant teething problems.

The 4-ton class helicopter’s operating performance is just one of the details that led the H145 higher and higher in the HEMS market: the real secrets are well guarded behind the rear clamshell doors of the helicopter, one of the distinctive features of the H145 together with the renowned rear Fenestron.

The custom made HEMS kit provided by Italian manufacturer Mecaer Aviation Group has been since the launch of the aircraft one of the cornerstones of the rotorcraft development, as we have observed during Airmed 2014, just a year before the H145 entry in service. To better understand the feature of the HEMS kit designed by Mecaer Aviation Group for the H145 we spoke with Giovanni Cipolotti, physician, anesthetist, currently Director of the SUEM 118 ULSS 1 of Belluno and, moreover, a man who saw the very birth of HEMS in Italy back in the eighties.

In the photogallery: H145 "Falco" I-SUEM in Northern Italy

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"The biggest benefit of the H145 is the feeling of working in a road ambulance - said Dr Cipolotti -. That’s no surprise because the H145 has been designed with the support of the medical community,so it has perfect ergonomics and allows personnel to move swiftly onboard. In the cabin there is all the space you need to perform all the stabilization manouvers, while you can switch from different cabin layouts in a very short amount of time. The overall feeling of order is constant in every situation and it is thanks to its smart HEMS kit, which succeeds in the task of implementing in a helicopter the know-how acquired from the layout of the cabins of the most modern road ambulances”.

The patient's head position inside the cabin is another decisive factor for a successful stabilization of the patient onboard. In the Airbus H145 case, the cabin presents a layout quite similar to road ambulances. Doctor's seat is in fact located right next to the patient's head, mirroring the cabin crew. "That’s the only correct position, the same one used in intensive care for a better control of the upper respiratory tract and for bronchoscopy - noted the Belluno SUEM 118 ULSS 1 Director -. From that point of view, the doctor's attention can indeed move quickly from head to chest and abdomen, statistically the body districts most affected by different types of trauma”.

In the video: H145 in Italian Alps - the INAER story


Besides having followed all the steps that led to the entrance in service of the H145 HEMS base of Pieve di Cadore (callsign "Falco” - Hawk - operated by INAER Aviation Italia), Dr. Giovanni Cipolotti has also been a witness to the evolution of the italian HEMS market and industry. After the first experiences in the second half of the 80’s, he’s in fact been able to appreciate the evolution of the machines through of some of the most iconic and successful rotorcrafts ever made, like the BK117.

"The first HEMS helicopters were transport or aerial work machines simply adapted to HEMS missions. In the early '80s there was a stretcher, the strictly necessary medical equipment, a doctor, a nurse or rescuer. That was it. Today we are witnessing a trend of considerable progress, especially for the development of HEMS kits. There is no longer space for old fashioned, heavy and large medical kits, now the keyword is modularity, the same feature which allows you to have on board instruments such as an hearth lung machine, and right after some minute, you get a brand new configuration suitable for mountain rescue operations - concludes Dr. Cipolotti -. The H145 has achieved an excellent cost / benefit factor, it is a powerful machine and has the ideal size for any type of intervention, especially over mountain areas. The H145 experience teaches us that we must improve every day for securing higher standards for our patients' survival chance. That's the only way you can reach the technical perfection: once you got it, you have to start over again".

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