The word, Korea, brings to mind the latest development between the two nations – one a proponent of democracy and the other a dictatorship. What most people do not know is that Korea, as a whole, had a huge part to play in the evolution of medical air services. It all began during the Korean conflict in the 50’s of the last century. Making way in the conflict-ridden zone was no joke, owing to the bad reach and wartime danger. What came handy was a modified chopper that could carry patients to the nearest medical base, just in time to save life or at least salvage a limb.
The Idea of Medical Air Services Took Off
The success of the modified aircraft to serve as an air ambulance was a great success. This inspired the military to dedicate choppers for this very purpose. It is believed that over 20 thousand soldiers were rescued using military medical air services. However, owing to the technology and limited logistics of the time, the concept did not make its way to civilian lives for quite some time. Medical air services got further military acceptance when over 80 thousand soldiers benefited from them during the Vietnam War. All the wars from the time of the Second World War had seen medical air services evolve.
The Foothold into Civilian Lives
The mid 1960’s saw a path-changing societal research paper titled, “Accidental Death and Disability.” It questioned the fundamental logic behind limiting medical air services for military use. It brought to light how air ambulances can be of immense help to save civilian lives during medical emergencies ranging from motor vehicle accidents to cardiac arrests. By this time, aviation logistics had also evolved greatly. The result: first medical air service saw the day of light in the United States in 1972. By the turn of the century, over 203 thousand people were benefiting from medical air services.
Most of our discussions have always revolved around insurances, scheduling, and other facts pertaining to medical air transport. Here, we veer a bit from our usual discussions and move towards a few fun facts that will also add to the pool of your general knowledge.
First Medical Air Transport Vehicle was actually a Balloon
Yes, you read it right, a balloon! An air balloon was first used in 1866 to rescue stranded sailors of a shipwreck. The rescue finds mention in Jules Verne’s Robur le Conquérant. The name of this medical air transport balloon was Albatross. Some time later, another air ambulance balloon was used to evacuate 160 soldiers from a city under siege in 1870.
The WW-I also Marked the Beginning of Medical Air Transport
Well, something good came out of the War that had left the world in shambles. The French were the first to recognize the importance of medical air transport. They estimated that the mortality rate would fall by 60% if medical air transport was made use of.
The first person to be rescued through a proper aircraft for medical reasons was as Serbian officer during World War I.
The credit of having an organized air ambulance service goes to the Nazi Germany, which in 1936 had a fleet of medical air transport vehicles. They first put it into use during the Spanish Civil War.
The First Civilian Medical Air Transport took Place in 1933
Private air ambulance services had still not come into picture. It was, in fact, the British Air Force that first started helping civilians. It was on May 14, 1933 that a fisherman who suffered a perforated stomach was transported through an air ambulance.
Switzerland caught up after World War II, mainly to aid in rescue missions involving mountains during winter sports.
Looking at these facts, we must feel fortunate knowing that the response time these days has gone down to just about 10 minutes during emergencies.
Fixed Wing aircraft were the first aircraft used in medEvac transport. A medical section of the Army Air Corps was created as early as June 1, 1925 using converted DeHaviland aircraft. Helicopters did not see use as medical transports until 1944.
In 1926, the United States Army Air Corps used a converted DeHaviland aircraft to transport patients from Nicaragua to France Army Base in Panama, one hundred and fifty miles away. The first civilian air medical transport was completed in 1928 when a DeHaviland Fox Moth aircraft in the service of Australia’s Royal Flying Doctor Service took off on its first mission. The Royal Flying Doctor Service holds the distinction of being the first civilian air medical transport program.