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Medical repatriation: Your air ambulance aircraft options explained

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Medical repatriation: Your air ambulance aircraft options explained

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Following a medical crisis, patients may express the desire to be flown by air ambulance back to their home country or to one of the world’s best hospitals/clinics. However, moving from one hospital to another necessitates smooth logistics, which implies determining the best medical repatriation option: Long-distance commercial flight with a medical escort, private air ambulance via an ambulance plane or helicopter… The decision is frequently influenced by the patient's medical prognosis and budget, as well as the quality of care made readily available onboard the chosen flight. What are your options for air ambulance aircraft? How do you make the best decision? Can other alternatives be considered? Let us dispel any misgivings you may have.

What is an air ambulance aircraft?

An air ambulance is a medically equipped aircraft that is designed to transport sick or injured people over long distances, whether in a neighbouring state or a foreign country, in order to receive proper medical attention. This type of aircraft is also manned by medical professionals and specialists who monitor the patient and provide any medical assistance they require until they arrive at their final destination.

  • Medical Repatriation UK’s aircraft fleet consists of two types of air ambulances:
  • Fixed-wing air ambulances which include airplanes such as jets and props, and
  • Rotary-wing air ambulances which include helicopters.

We provide fixed-wing and rotary-wing medical flight services, neonatal and pediatric transports, mobile isolation systems, and onboard stretchers, with each aircraft being piloted by two experienced pilots . We are here for you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including holidays.

When would an air ambulance aircraft be necessary?

Medical Repatriation UK’s air ambulances are used for a multitude of non-emergency medical transportation needs. On a global scale, patients with unstable conditions, high-risk patients, or patients requiring advanced medical intervention are among our regular clients. Our medical flights can transport babies and seniors, Covid-19 infected patients as well as patients on life support. Let us look at some of their other uses:

Appropriate for long-distance patient transportation, fixed-wing air ambulances (referred to as a lifeguard flights in aviation), are better suited for:

  • Specialized care;
  • Medical repatriation;
  • Medical evacuation or tourism.

patient on stretcher

Rotary air ambulances, on the other hand, are appropriate for shorter distances and are mainly used for inter-country hospital transfers.

Furthermore, air ambulances of any type can be used as an alternative to commercial aircraft, particularly when there is limited stretcher space or no airline tickets available, which is likely to occur during peak seasons and is even more common for commercial airliners implemented in regions impacted by the Coronavirus. Similarly, no passenger showing symptoms of the disease will be permitted to board a commercial flight.

How are our air ambulance aircraft different from a commercial “medical” flight?

When it comes to medical transportation, patients have a lot of options. Most of them envision a helicopter air ambulance in a rescue situation, but for the vast majority of patients that Medical Repatriation UK transports, we typically use a fixed-wing aircraft. But what exactly is the distinction between a fixed-wing air ambulance and a commercial airliner?

Before deciding between these two options, keep in mind that the best repatriation flight is determined by the medical needs of the patient, the distance to be travelled, the number of passengers being transferred, and the patient's weight and luggage.

The good news is that long-distance medical transportation options have never been better. Indeed, both private air ambulances and commercial airliners handle long-distance medical transport. Nonetheless, while there are some similarities, in the sense that a plane is used in both cases, between the two services, they are still very different.

Commercial “medical” flights

Depending on your budget and health, medical repatriation via a commercial flight is still an option to consider. If your doctor certifies that you are fit to fly, this is your best bet, especially since you can hire the services of one of our medical escorts to receive basic care while on your trip.

However, if you have certain acute pathologies, such as respiratory distress, are at risk of thrombosis, or require medical equipment during the long-haul flight, such as oxygen, which most airlines do not allow on board, or more complex equipment, such as syringe pumps, which they do not provide, medical repatriation by a commercial flight is strongly discouraged, if not impossible. Travelling with a Covid-19 infection or having a flexible flight schedule is also out of the question on a commercial airliner. That is what sets them apart from Medical Repatriation UK.

Private air ambulances

When it comes to medical repatriation, size does matter! We can arrange your medical flight on short notice using a Learjet, or a helicopter, depending on your needs. Both can land at small airports where large commercial aircraft cannot, making them ideal for transporting people from small islands and remote locations. By the way, our helicopter ambulances can land on rooftop helipads and heliports at healthcare facilities.

ambulance helicopter

Moreover, when Medical Repatriation UK is hired to coordinate your long-distance patient transportation to a preferred medical facility that you are unable to reach on your own, we can book travel on both domestic and international flights, if necessary. Each patient is assigned a flight coordinator who is in charge of all aspects of the travel arrangements, including booking flights and arranging any necessary ground transportation.

Did you know that? We provide bed-to-bed services, which means that we will pick you up from wherever you are, drive you to your flight, and then take you to your final destination, ensuring that you are in good hands before we leave.

In addition, we employ a team of medical professionals with years of experience, so you can be confident that you will be in good hands throughout your flight. As a result, each patient is also assigned a medical crew that will accompany them throughout their journey. With training in dealing with medical emergencies, they have access to any medical devices or pharmaceuticals that may be required.

And most importantly, we offer a fleet of modern air ambulances outfitted with the same high-level medical equipment found in an ICU.

Contact Medical Repatriation UK today to learn more about the air ambulance services we can provide to patients travelling to or from the UK or almost anywhere else in the world.

What kinds of air ambulances exist and which one to choose?

While distinguishing between an air ambulance and a commercial flight or even a ground ambulance is relatively simple, the distinctions within air medical transport can be more confounding. Again, when it comes to medical flights, understanding the two main types of aircraft available is critical. These are rotor-wing aircraft and fixed-wing aircraft. Despite the fact that both have distinct advantages, the best mode of medical transportation will be determined by the circumstances of each patient.

Rotor-wing air ambulance

At the risk of repeating ourselves, helicopters can land almost anywhere, giving them a significant advantage over sometimes slower land ambulances. Rotor-wing air ambulances, on the other hand, have a relatively short travel range, keeping in mind that the Bell 412 Helicopter can fly up to 700 km before refuelling. As a result, helicopters are typically reserved for short-distance patient transfers.  ·        

Fixed-wing air ambulance

Do fixed-wing air ambulances lack the flexibility of helicopter landings? It all depends on their size, but we commonly use them for inter-hospital patient transfers and other non-emergency medical transportation. Our fixed-wing turbo-prop planes and ambulance jets, which are an essential component of Medical Repatriation UK's high-quality air ambulance fleet, can travel longer distances without refuelling. Another advantage is that, depending on their size, they can usually carry more passengers.

Fun Fact: While turbo-prop rescue planes are slower than private jets, they can land closer to their destination, at small, regional airports with shorter runways, and they are less expensive to operate. Our ambulance jets, such as the Citation Mustang, Learjet, or Bombardier Challenger, have superior range and speed, allowing them to transport patients across continents in record time.

Which type is better?

When it comes to long-distance repatriations or medevac flights, neither is clearly superior to the other, and each has its own set of advantages. Again, the specifics of the patient's medical situation will determine which mode of transportation is best suited to his or her needs. It goes without saying that Medical Repatriation UK provides you with the option of chartering any type of air ambulance. However, our knowledgeable and friendly staff is always available to assist you in making an informed decision.

Any further questions?

We answer many of the questions on the topics of long-distance patient transfers in our FAQ section.

Contact us now for your long-distance patient transport!

If you need more information or a free non-binding quote, please contact our 24-hour service at any time. Our knowledgeable and helpful staff can be reached by: