There was a time when simulators were known to be just an adjunct to the real training for pilots. The air ambulance industry would not recognize training received through simulators. However, the perception is changing today and fast. Increasingly, simulators are gaining in popularity as well as acceptance when it comes to pilot training. Today, they are an essential part of pilot training and many air ambulance companies rely on such simulators to keep their pilots well trained. Realistic helicopter simulator training is simply not what it used to be a few years ago.
Technology Adoption of the Air Ambulance Industry
The air ambulance industry has always been quick in adopting the latest technology. Thanks to the high processing speeds that we enjoy today, virtual pilot training can be achieved without any lags in the experience. The result is a realistic feel. Scenarios that cannot be produced in real life can be created in the virtual world today. This enriches the experience of the pilots during training, making them well-equipped for air ambulance rescues. Even highly experienced pilots swear by the life-like experience that these simulators are able to produce. Countries like Australia rely on this technology to provide rotary air ambulance training. Today, there are programs that are approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of the country.
Flight-Specific Simulation is Today a Reality
Fixed-wing flight training has, since long, relied on simulation to a great extent. However, when it came to rotary-wing the prevalence of simulation training was sparse, but this is fast changing. All it takes is relating the equipment to computer programs that are powered by state-of-the-art computer processors. The result is a rich experience for the pilots, making them well-prepared for unexpected situations. The day is not too far when air ambulance pilots will receive licenses based only on simulation experience.
This week has seen some important developments in the air ambulance industry. However, the news has been a mixed bag of both good and bad. One thing though is for certain, the developments are quite interesting and noteworthy. Here, we have chosen the top three.
The US Government Agrees to Compensate for Destroyed Air Ambulance Helipad
Recently, a helicopter belonging to the United States Defence had destroyed a domestic helipad in the UK. The helipad belonged to Cambridge University Hospitals. The destruction was an inadvertent incident, wherein the structures within the air ambulance helipad were ripped off as the defense helicopter took off. It had left the site not worthy of landing air ambulance vehicles. However, it has now been reported that the United States Government has offered to repair the structures. Most of the air ambulance industry in the UK is charity-based and the steep cost of repairs is certainly a burden.
The US Supreme Court Ruling About Air Ambulance Bills
Texas Supreme Court had ruled that insurance companies were only liable to pay air ambulance service providers a sum that is deemed fair and reasonable when it comes to worker’s compensation cases. The issue had long been a bone of contention in the state. The decision was appealed against and had reached the US Supreme Court. The state’s ruling has now been held up by the top court of the country. The case was primarily fought by PHI Air Medical.
An International Surge in Demand Owing to Rising Pandemic in India
It is a well-known fact that India is struggling to cope up with the rising COVID-19 cases. At the same time, foreign nationals living in the country are looking for an exit. While some of them have already left, the unfortunate few who have contracted the virus are looking at the air ambulance industry to exit the country, leading to high demand.
There have been a lot of developments when it comes to the air ambulance industry in recent times. The most predominant of these changes has been the attempt by the Federal Government of the United States to bring down the surprise billing practices. While the attempt is sure to help the patients, enabling them to use air ambulance services without the worry of payments, there are several issues that will bother the industry in the coming days. With insurance coverage being felt inadequate, the margins of the industry are going to dwindle down drastically. How can the industry adapt? This is the question we try to answer.
Air Ambulance Companies Need the Right Perspective
Most of the air ambulance services in the United States are funded by private equity and the organizations are obviously for-profit. A drastic dip in revenues can mean that a lot of the players will start looking at an exit strategy. However, this can impact the nation adversely as it directly affects the coverage, especially for rural America where healthcare infrastructure is less than adequate. This inadequacy necessitates air ambulance services during emergencies. If air ambulance companies shut down, it could be a fatal problem for this population.
The Need to Work Cohesively by Industry Players
It is time that the major players in the air ambulance industry look at cutting down the costs. One effective way of achieving this is a collaboration between companies. This will necessitate fewer resources as they can be shared. Consequently, the cost burden will be significantly reduced. It is also a time to look at acquiring smaller players who were anyway reeling under competitive pressure. Also, lesser competition means that each player will have a greater piece of the market pie. Profits will, therefore, remain optimum as the economy of scale will kick in.
Countries like the United Kingdom and India are already reeling under the second wave of COVID-19 infections. Nations like Australia and New Zealand are making it tough for people to enter their countries, protecting themselves against a potential spike in virus cases. Whatever said and done, it seems increasingly inevitable that the world, including the United States, will see the second wave of the pandemic. Instead of denying this fact, prudence lies in preparing for it. Air ambulance services are again going to be a big part of tackling this problem.
The Air Ambulance Industry is Better Prepared
The world knows a lot about protecting itself against the Coronavirus today. From the perspective of air ambulance services, the industry as a whole has adopted a sanitization protocol to protect the frontline workers like paramedics and pilots, apart from the patients. In the days to come, the heartlands of the United States are again going to need air ambulance services to get adequate treatment. In this context, it must be noted that the infection hits the older generation the hardest. Much of the rural population in the United States falls under this category.
Children May Be More Vulnerable in the Next Wave
There are at least three new variants of the virus present in the world today. Sadly, it has been witnessed that, in rare cases, even the vaccinated individuals are contracting the virus. Moreover, people do not fear the virus today as much as they did earlier. This has resulted in lax self-sanitization measures. All this could snowball into a huge spike and the air ambulance industry needs to be prepared in case the caseload is very high, especially in the rural United States where the number of hospital beds is still considered inadequate to handle a huge spike in numbers.
The citizens of the United Kingdom are the forerunners when it comes to raising funds for charitable causes that involve air ambulance services. Rightly so, because the country’s air ambulance services are mostly charity-based and do not get full funding from corporate houses or the government. They mainly depend on the community that they serve to keep them flying. However, the pandemic has made it rather tough to raise funds through public events. Thankfully, people have been sensitive to this issue and have been trying their best to support their local air ambulance services.
A Chocolate Air Ambulance
Shaped like a helicopter, a whopping 220 lb chocolate that stands at about 7 feet high and 9 feet long is the latest charity effort in the United Kingdom that is making waves. Reinforced with a customized steel frame, it is not just a charity effort but a crowd-puller. Created entirely out of public donations, the hope is that people will not only pay to see this wonder but also pay to eat a small chunk of it. The money raised like this would go to the air ambulance charity. The feat has been made possible by Jan Hansen who is from Folkingham, Lincolnshire.
The Reason Behind Creating the Edible Chopper
The astounding chocolate chopper was the fund-raising choice to create awe among people and grab their attention. Mr. Hansen did reveal that he had his doubts midway as he was creating this edible wonder. However, the local charity-based air ambulance services that he often sees flying high were the inspiration for him to keep going. The chocolate chopper is currently on display right behind Mr. Hansen’s shop. He also revealed that he was well aware of the struggles being faced by the local air ambulance charities due to the COVID-19 pandemic and decided to lend a helping hand.
Every now and then, we attempt to keep you abreast of the latest happenings in the air ambulance industry. This week witnessed some intriguing developments. We take a look at them in some detail.
Questions being Raised about Efficacy of No Surprise Bill Act
In the United States, air ambulance industry observers are looking at the No Surprise Bill Act with some skepticism recently. The reason behind this is the existence of the Airline Deregulation Act. Experts believe that the air ambulance organizations that are backed by private equity are most likely to look for loopholes by leveraging the Airline Deregulation Act. The new Act that bans surprise billing practices will come into effect in the year 2022.
Air Ambulance and Airplane Come Dangerously Close to Each Other
An air ambulance chopper belonging to North Whales and an airplane reportedly came dangerously close to each other recently. It is believed that the distance between the two was just about 50 feet. The paramedic seated in the air ambulance spotted the airplane first. He had immediately informed the pilot about it averting a life-snuffing situation.
The air ambulance had no prior information that an airplane was in the skies. It was a case of both aerial vehicles not knowing that the other was present. A situation like this is not the first. A similar situation involving an air ambulance and Cessna 150 had occurred in the October of last year. The incident brings to light the fact that air ambulance services must adopt mid-air collision warning systems and not rely merely on human alertness.
Unscrupulous Elements Disrupt Air Ambulance Services
Although the happening surrounding the incident are not yet clear, it was recently reported that a few youths had abused an air ambulance pilot in Derbyshire. The miscreants had not relented at that, they had gone further and tried to grab the blades of the air ambulance chopper in an attempt to damage it. Police were quick to respond and the situation had swiftly come under control.
There was a lot happening in the air ambulance industry in the past few days. From near-fatal accidents to celebrations, there was news that kept people on their toes. Here is a quick recap of some of the most noteworthy occurrences that took place recently.
Bowen Island Air Ambulance Crash
Last Friday was witness to some grueling moments as an air ambulance crashed in Bowel Island. The helicopter had crashed into the trees. Search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched to the site after receiving the information. A ground ambulance was also called to the spot. Details of the crash are just coming in, and it is not yet clear where the air ambulance was headed. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the crash. The crew consisted of two pilots, and the air ambulance was not carrying any patient at the time.
Laser Lights Haunt Air Ambulance Services Again
The laser flashing incident occurred on February 28th. The time was around 9:30 in the night. The air ambulance was in the Roath Recreation Ground in the United Kingdom. The mission had to be aborted due to this attack as the pilot suffered temporary blurring of vision and intense headaches. The police have again appealed to the general public to refrain from such unruly behavior. The offense can lead up to 5 years of imprisonment.
Air Ambulance Service Turns 20
Wales Air Ambulance service recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. The date was the first of this month. The charitable organization that has a humble beginning started its service with just one helicopter two decades ago, reflected the founder during the occasion. Today, the service operates four air ambulance helicopters with coverage across the United Kingdom. The charity has undertaken over 38,000 missions during its operation. The organization has now set up a fundraising effort and aptly named it My20.
The United States has one of the largest air ambulance industries in the entire world. This is in spite of the fact that it is not the most densely populated country in the world. It is, therefore, natural that one wonders why this is so. There are several reasons behind it. One of the prime reasons is the potential for revenue. However, there is another important aspect to it, which is not often considered. The United States is a country that has a huge rural population. It is without quick access to appropriate medical facilities and air ambulance services are a necessity.
Air Ambulance Services Close the Distance Gap
Although the United States is not a densely populated country, it is one of the largest when it comes to the landmass. This means that the population in the country is spread thinly across a large geographical area. Moreover, the cities are very thickly populated, which means the population in the rural areas is thinly distributed. This fact acts as a disincentive for any major medical corporation to have a facility in the areas as the number of potential revenue-generating subjects is very not that great.
Air Ambulance Industry is a Profitable One
Closing the gap created by the lack of medical facilities in the rural areas is the air ambulance industry. Most of the time, the only way a patient can get quick access to advanced medical care is through air ambulance services. This fact increases the customer base of the industry. With most of these organizations being funded by private equity, obviously, a lot of investment has gone into the sector. The result has been a huge increase in the number of air ambulance services that rule the country’s skies. With the surprise billing practices slated to come to a close soon, the general public will soon reap the true benefits of having several air ambulance companies at their disposal.
Technology has taken over almost all parts of our daily lives today, so it is no surprise that the air ambulance industry is evolving technologically. However, most of the changes have been focussing on making the flights safer and the equipment more effective. What about the information that the air ambulance crew handles every day? There has not been significant progress in this realm. Most of the information is exchanged via paper even today. It must be pointed out that some of the information is shared electronically, but there is a problem. The information sharing is mostly scattered and there is no one-stop solution to it as of now.
Electronic Flight Bags can Transform Air Ambulance Functioning
From standard operating procedures to weather forecasts, there is a sea of information that the crew needs to be aware of during each flight. Wouldn’t it be great if all the relevant information is found under one umbrella? Electronic flight bags can do the trick. A well-connected device that brings all the information under a dashboard is the ideal solution. The information needs to be dynamic as factors such as weather can change constantly. The ecosystem can be interconnected to several sources through a centralized data cloud.
What are the Limitations?
The air ambulance industry is highly regulated. Therefore, the electronic flight bag system would need approval from the relevant authorities and will need to remain in compliance. Then, there is the issue of connectivity. Without continuous connectivity, no cloud system works efficiently. With the air ambulance services often operating in remote areas, wireless internet connectivity can be an issue. Also, uniformity in sharing the data needs to be there so that all the systems involved speak to each other in a common language to avoid misinterpretation, duplication, or omission of critical data.
Despite all the limitations, it is hoped that the air ambulance industry will overcome them in the interest of smoother and more efficient operations.
Customization has been a need of the air ambulance industry for a long time now. The customizations, however, have been mainly aimed at internal modifications to make maximum utilization of space. Another set of redesigns have come in the form of changes to the medical equipment with the objective of making them lighter and compact. As a result, the air ambulance vehicles that we see today are equipped with medical gadgets that can put regular intensive care units to shame. However, the industry is demanding even more, and rightly so. Offering premium services is what the air ambulance industry has strived for.
Air Ambulance Design Basics Need Change
The aircraft industry is highly evolved today and is looking to implement innovations. It is now looking at the air ambulance industry to spread its market reach further. It is a win-win situation for both industries.
For the aircraft manufacturing industry, it is a chance to widen its market as the traditional markets have seen a sharp slump in recent times. The COVID-19 situation has only worsened the existing situation. On the other hand, the air ambulance industry has had its own design demands.
What does the Air Ambulance Industry Need?
Efficiency when it comes to space is perhaps the biggest demand of the air ambulance industry. To make a true difference, medical flight designs need a fundamental change in design. The aircraft need to be lighter, yet more space-efficient.
Another requirement is maneuverability. The design needs to be such that an air ambulance must be able to land and take off amid heavy traffic. The ability to reach tough terrains is another requirement.
When achieving all this, the aircraft needs to be silent enough so that the patients are offered a comfortable flight. It is heartening to see that innovations in this space today are moving in the right direction.