Jets VS Piston Aircraft Used For Air Ambulances

It may not be something you’ve ever thought about, but it may be something you, a friend or a loved one may need someday. We’re talking about a medical evacuation or medical flight transport on an air ambulance. What we’re going to focus on in this particular article is the difference between piston, propeller driven twin engine aircraft and business jets used by air ambulance companies. We’ll compare commonly used models in both categories.

Many types of light twin-engine aircraft for medical transport exist. The Cessna 421 is one such plane commonly used as an air ambulance. The 421 was produced by Cessna between 1967 and 1985, and was developed from an earlier model, the Cessna 411. The main difference between the two models is that the 411 is not pressurized and the 421 is pressurized. This allows the plane to fly at higher altitudes.

The 421 can fly as high as 30,200 ft. At that altitude, the air is smoother and the pilots can fly above bad weather. This allows a more comfortable flight for the patients being transferred. Sometime, however, they may still be faced with rough air, storms and turbulence even at these flight levels.

Where this plane has the benefit of being pressurized, it lacks the range needed for very long domestic flights or international flights, without stopping to refuel. The 421 has a range of 1,712 miles. Its maximum speed is 295 mph. With this lower airspeed, medical flights will take longer. This is not always an option if time is a critical factor for a patient.

Another issue with this type of plane is cabin size. Although it seats six, its cabin is rather small in comparison to a business jet. Once the patient stretcher, medical equipment and medical crew are loaded on board, there may be very little or no room for a family member to travel with the patient.

Now we’ll compare the twin piston plane to a commonly used business jet. One of the most popular mid-size business jets used for air medical transport today, is the Learjet 60. In the world of air ambulance transfer, the Learjet 60 is the Cadillac of the air ambulances.

The 60 is a medium-range business jet produced by Bombardier Aerospace. The 60 is powered by two Pratt and Whitney Canada PW305A turbofans. These engines produce a whopping 4600 pounds of thrust each, giving the 60 a max speed of 522 mph. Its large cabin accommodates eight passengers, giving it amble room for patient, medical crew and family, to travel comfortably. The 60 has a range of 2,773 miles. With its speed and range the 60 can offer worldwide capabilities and transport sick and ill patients faster than piston propeller planes. The 60 can also climb to a high altitude of 51,000 feet, out of the congested lower airways and turbulent air.

Choice of aircraft really depends on many factors like the condition of the patient and length of the flight. But if you have a choice, business jets have really taken over as the gold standard in medical air transport for air ambulance companies worldwide. You can read more on different types of air crafts used for air ambulance services by checking out this article on CareConnectix.

Air Ambulance Aircraft: Your Options for Medical Transportation

Though an unpleasant thought for many, serious accidents and severe medical conditions do happen. Such extreme circumstances can require the services of air ambulance companies. Air ambulance providers utilize a variety of aircraft types to provide critical lifesaving services. The types of aircraft utilized depend on the patient’s condition and distance to appropriate medical care. Perhaps the best known category of medical transport aircraft is the rotorcraft, or helicopter. These aircraft have the advantage of being able to take off and land in confined spaces. Helicopters are particularly useful in remote areas and locations far from airports. In addition, rotorcraft can provide point-to-point service from the pickup point directly to many hospitals. According to Michael Peat, a Florida-based pilot for Air Critical Care a leading air medical transportation service, helicopters are most useful within a 100-mile range. Beyond 100 miles, helicopters tend to lose their advantages to fixed-wing aircraft. Rotorcraft typically have slower cruise speeds and shorter ranges than their fixed-wing counterparts. In addition, cabin space is usually quite limited in helicopters. This lack of space, combined with payload (weight capacity) limits, often prevent a family member from accompanying a patient aboard a helicopter.

In the fixed-wing aircraft category, airplanes perform a number of medical evacuation, or medevac, flights. Piston-engine aircraft perform a significant number of these medical transportation flights. Piston-driven planes have the advantages of greater speed and range than most helicopters. In addition, piston-powered airplanes are usually able to operate from very short runways, providing access to the vast majority of airports. The models of piston planes used in air ambulance operations typically have larger cabins than medevac helicopters. These cabins often permit a family member to accompany patients on medical transportation flights.

Although they fill an important niche in the air ambulance arena, piston planes do have certain limitations. Unlike helicopters, planes require an airport or suitable strip to land. This limits the availability of landing sites and requires ground transportation to complete the leg to the medical facility. Also, the vibration and noise level of piston cabins can be somewhat fatiguing for those aboard. Though great for midrange flights, piston airplanes usually lack the greater speed and range of their turboprop and jet.

Turboprop aircraft combine turbine engines with propellers for several advantages. Turbine engines generally operate more smoothly than reciprocating (piston) engines and require less maintenance. Turbines also operate efficiently over a wider range of altitudes and temperatures. From a financial standpoint, turboprops offer some best-of-both-worlds benefits. They typically have greater speed and range than most piston planes while being more fuel efficient than jet aircraft. For mid- to long-range trips, turboprops are an invaluable asset to the air ambulance industry.

At the upper end of the airplane spectrum, jet aircraft are the unrivaled leaders in speed, range, and altitude. Jets have the ability to fly above most weather, allowing for more flexibility and greater trip completion. According to Peat, jets have a greater than 90% dispatch rate, meaning they are the most likely aircraft to be able to complete a trip. In a medical emergency, trip completion should be a major consideration. Jets also have greater cabin room and payload than most other aircraft, allowing them to carry more equipment, medical personnel, and often a family member or two. In addition, the advanced pressurization, environmental, and electrical systems found on jets provide for a greater degree of patient comfort and more options for medical equipment than the majority of smaller aircraft. For long-range air ambulance flights, jet airplanes are an absolute necessity.

Though great aircraft for medical transportation, jets aren’t without a few drawbacks. From a financial standpoint, jets are typically the most expensive aircraft to operate. Also, jets require greater runway lengths than their prop-driven counterparts. These runway requirements mean jets are unable to use some smaller runways, reducing the availability of suitable landing sites. In addition, like all airplanes, jets require ground transportation to the medical facility upon arrival.

When deciding on an air ambulance service, the patient’s condition should be the main consideration. For Advanced Life Support (ALS) or Critical Care (CC), be sure to choose an operator who specializes in those fields. For short-range transport and Basic Life Support (BLS), helicopter operators are usually the best choice. Jets and turboprops are the way to go for long-range medical transportation and more critical conditions.

Other factors to consider include the range of services offered by air ambulance companies. Some companies will arrange all necessary services from door-to-door, or bedside-to-bedside. These services include ground transportation on both ends of the flight, coordination with hospitals and medical providers, dealing with insurance companies, corresponding with family members, and administering medications and necessary medical procedures. For complicated medical conditions and long distance medical transportation, full-service air ambulance providers are an invaluable asset. An often-overlooked consideration is the possibility of medical emergencies while abroad. Medical emergencies can and do happen anywhere. Before traveling abroad, it is wise to consider available options for medical repatriation. Look for travel insurance that includes medical coverage abroad and repatriation to the United States. It is also wise to research air ambulance providers that specialize in medical repatriation. These companies can organize medical care from overseas countries back to the U. S. The best organizations will coordinate immigration and ticketing issues (if necessary) and even arrange interpreters for non-English-speaking situations. These services can be very helpful if a medical emergency should occur while overseas.

When a medical emergency occurs, air ambulance aircraft provide invaluable services to those affected. While many consider a severe accident or medical condition to be a slim possibility, researching available medical transportation can pay off should an unfortunate event happen. Becoming familiar with air ambulance options is an easy way to increase the chances of a happy outcome following a serious medical event. additional information maybe found at

Air Ambulance Travel – What Can I Expect?

If your medical situation or that of a loved one requires travel to another medical facility hundreds if not thousands of miles away, you are bound to be very nervous. Here are a few things that you can expect from an air ambulance.

Continuation of Care
It is a nervous thought, leaving the safety of your current hospital, with the doctors that have been treating you near at hand and having to go by air ambulance to get to your next care facility. But be assured that the you will receive a continuation of your current health care.

Staffed with medical professionals, air ambulances also carry all necessary medical gear, medications and any specialty items relevant to your health care situation. Air ambulance medical professionals thoroughly discuss your health care with both your current doctor and the doctor into who’s care you will be going.

Trained Facilitator to Coordinate Your Travel
Well before you ever enter an air ambulance, a trained facilitator will be assigned to you. This person is very aware of your current health situation and it is their job to coordinate all the details of getting you from the bed in your current hospital, to the bed in the hospital you are going to as comfortably as possible.

This includes ground transportation, medical equipment and supplies, hospital records, discharge from one hospital and admission into the next one, insurance forms, personal comfort items, flight plans, catering and any special family requests.

Personal Medical Professional
At all times when you are in the care of an air ambulance, be it on the ground getting to the airplane or in the air, you will be accompanied by a medical professional. This medical professional will have consulted with your previous physician and with your receiving physician. They are prepared to handle your health care needs in the air and on the ground until you are in your receiving hospital.

An air ambulance service makes your long distance transition from one medical facility to another as seamless as possible.