Ready for Sicily: the Airbus H145 in Southern Italy

Ready for Sicily: the Airbus H145 in Southern Italy

After a successful deployment in the biggest island of the Mediterranean Sea we talked about the 4-ton helicopter with Dr Giuseppe Misuraca, chief operations officer of Caltanissetta 118 HEMS base

by Stefano Silvestre

"I got to fly virtually all HEMS helicopters from BK117 C2 to EC155 Dauphin, the iconic AB412 and AW109. But here we are talking about something else: the Airbus Helicopters H145 is specifically designed for helicopter rescue missions”.

This is the commentary of a professional working every day on a HEMS helicopter. That’s a point of view that helps making a precise idea of how the H145 has been succesfully integrated in the italian healthcare system. Numbers are on its side: I-CALA (the H145 operated by Babcock MCS Italia on behalf of 118 of Caltanissetta) is one of three helicopters delivered by Airbus’ italian dealer Aersud Elicotteri which have taken service in the first half of 2015 between Sicily and South Tyrol, two very different geographical areas of Italy presenting challenging environments and, last but not least, a real testbed for hot&high capabilities.

The H145 is not an evolution of the EC145 C2: the Airbus-made light twin is a brand new machine and comes with the most advanced Helionix avionic suitetoday available on the most modern helicopters of the Airbus Helicopters fleet like the H135, H145, H160 and H175. Thanks to this commonality Airbus Helicopters is offering a real avionics family, which aims at reducing the required training for the different type ratings. The H145 is capable to satisfy the most stringent requirement for Performance Based Navigation (PBN) being fully certified for RNP Approach, down to LPV/LP minima, and RNP 0.3 all phases of flight.

In 2016, the helicopter deployed in Caltanissetta HEMS base (which Babcock MCS Italia launched in Italy) has exceeded 1,000 flight hours, with an availability rate in line with the manufacturer's expectations (around 90 percent). In order to make a review of the H145 18 months after entering into service in Sicily, we talked with Dr Giuseppe Misuraca, director of the operations center of the Caltanissetta 118.

Dr  Misuraca, what’s is your opinion on the H145’ features in the last first year and a half of operations from the base of Caltanissetta?

"It became clear early that the H145 had been developed from the feedback of the healthcare community. That’s a point that I think is critical both from a medical point of view and  efficiency side. The H145 is a high performance helicopter, with a proverbial reliability and accurate ergonomics. It is a platform designed to keep the pace with the technological and regulatory evolution step, like the NVG ready feature, which I hope we will begin to test in Sicily starting from, 2017".

In the photogallery: Airbus H145 in action in Italy

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The helicopter was delivered by Aersud Elicotteeri and entered service in the first half of 2015 from the Babcock MCS Italia’s bases in Messina, Caltanissetta, Bolzano and Bressanone.

"The provider took a conscious decision based on previous experiences. The areas you mentioned are challenging environments where it is possible to test hot & high performances. Just one example: in summer we can easily reach and exceed a temperature of 45 degrees, Sicily is a challenging environment for any machine on a duty. The H145 did not have any problem and from my experience I can already say that it is a detail not to be underestimated".

What about the custom made HEMS kit developed by the Mecaer Aviation Group?

"It's a clever kit that makes its pivotal point on modularity. You can basically change the different layouts in just a few easy steps and for our specific case that’s a key feature. The cabin is quiet, bright and spacious, it is possible to carry up to six rescuers and a stretcher, while the installation of the second stretcher is for us a ready to use asset".

The H145 performed mission on Sicily islands.

"We completed HEMS missions on Lampedusa, Ustica and Pantelleria, the helicopter has been deployed in several operations also form the immigration emergency in the Mediterranean Sea. For Sicily, the H145 is now a sort of a ‘health bridge’ for Sicily islands, the Emergency Floatation System is always on, quite an unusual detail for our kind of operations, allowing you to reach the target immediately without reconfiguring the machine even if it already left for other mission types".

In the video: Elisoccorso 118 sicilia I-CALA

Do you recall in particular a mission that has highlighted the H145 qualities?

"The H145 offers considerable space to operate in a timely and effective way on the patient's airways, another detail that was not common in the machines where I got to work before. I had the chance to personally test this ergonomic feature during my duty, successfully resuscitating a young mother came shortly after takeoff in cardiac arrest as a result of a birth in a inaccessible place on the Nebrodi Mountains. The H145 ergonomics comes from the experience made on road ambulances and this tract is appreciated in full from the aeromedical community. We often mistakenly talk about 'flying hospitals', but the helicopter must not be one of that: it is an indispensable machine to stabilize the patient in the golden hour and allows a safe and fast transportation to the nearest and proper hub for treatment. The H145 fulfills all these health needs in full".

Sicily is a proper testbed for H145's operational capabilities?

"You see, from my own experience I got to know that perfect HEMS helicopter simply does not exists. It’s a matter of environment and needs: the H145 has a very low rotor flux, is equipped with skids and has the characteristics already mentioned in hot environments and at high altitude. It is therefore undoubtedly the ideal machine for Caltanissetta base. It's a helicopter on which to place full confidence, I speak purely from the healthcare and non-technical point of view: the H145 is a key asset for Caltanissetta base, we do not have near hubs, apart from a few areas of medical interest, and often we can transfer patients on Palermo, Messina and Catania bases without having to land for refueling. Being always ready for action makes the difference for the patient but also for the overall economic and operational efficiency of the health system. And above all, it makes a difference to those who have to work onboard". 

*Cover pic by: Massimo D'Ambra

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