In late November, Eurocopter
teamed with French hospitals in the Eure-et-Loir region, the French association of helicopter emergency medical services (AFHSH), and the French civil aviation authority (DGAC) to conduct a series of instrument flight tests that will in the near future, allow patients to be transported by helicopter from one hospital to another even under poor weather conditions. The current reorganization of the French public health system involves concentrating specialist medical services in a reduced number of hospitals, requiring air ambulance services, which in turn depends on the development of a medical transport network capable of providing an even more efficient service. Until now, the helicopters operating on medical missions only flew under visual flight conditions. The parties are testing the use of helicopters operating in an instrument flight rules (IFR) configuration to perform medical transport flights – a major innovation. The Eurocopter
EC145 had to complete a flight entirely under GPS navigation, from takeoff to final approach, confirming the helicopter’s ability to follow a predefined flight route even in the event of unfavorable meteorological conditions. Eurocopter has been working in close collaboration with AFHSH and the French civil aviation authority (DGAC) since 2007 to define the appropriate regulatory, technical and operational framework for IFR flights in a specifically medical context. If all goes well, such EMS helicopter flights would be allowed at the end of 2009. The next stage after the trials will be to implement flights under real operating conditions.