Tomorrow, 3rd April, Loganair will undertake its first mission to transport patients with COVID-19 in Scotland. The regional airline has been working to convert two aircraft for this purpose, one of which – a DHC-6 Twin Otter – is nearing completion. This is thought to be the first mission of its kind for the airline.
As increasing numbers of people require hospitalization due to COVID-19, the impact is being felt by the world’s health systems. Many hospitals are close to full capacity and there is a bid in many places to transfer patients to less crowded facilities. However, transferring patients with the highly infectious virus is easier said than done. Now, portions of Loganair’s fleet are being commandeered to assist.
Regional Scottish airline Loganair has been working tirelessly to complete a renovation that will turn its regular DHC-6 Twin Otter into an air ambulance, under the guidance from the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS). The process of converting the aircraft into an air ambulance will involve removing passenger seating and providing additional space and provisions so that essential care can be administered.
On Friday 3rd April, Loganair’s repurposed aircraft will complete its very first mission to transfer patients around Scotland.
How will it work?
With the Twin Otter, Loganair will carry just one patient. A normal air ambulance conversion of the Twin Otter would probably allow for two, however, due to the nature of COVID-19, special precautions are needed. Loganair will transfer patients in Epishuttle isolation pods – robust equipment that ensures the safety of health workers. As a result, they take up more space in an aircraft than a normal stretcher would.
For this reason, the Twin Otter may only transport a single patient at any time. By contrast, Loganair will soon use another aircraft that will be able to transport two COVID-19 patients.
Loganair is also working on the ambulance conversion of a Saab 340 which will be deployed next week. This aircraft is larger than the Twin Otter with a normal seating capacity of 34. In comparison, the Twin Otter normally seats 19. The airline has said that the Saab 340 air ambulance will be capable of transporting two passengers at a time and will cover an increased range, including to the Highlands and Scottish Islands.
Why is this needed?
Once in operation, Loganair will deploy its aircraft to respond to calls from hospitals to transfer patients infected with coronavirus. The reason for transfer could be anything from managing capacity to receiving specialized care in another facility, or even repatriation for end of life care.
In response to the hard work and dedication of Loganair staff the CEO of Loganair gushed with pride. Speaking to Airports International, Jonathan Hinkles said:
“The team effort to make this happen, moving from a concept to an operational solution in just a week, has been absolutely incredible…Although the circumstances under which all of this work has been undertaken are ones that we’d never have wished to see, I’m heartened that the effort which has gone into this is truly admirable. We will support the Scottish Ambulance Service, the NHS and the island communities who rely on Loganair for their lifeline air services if and when our assistance is needed.”
As the situation develops, it’s likely that more and more airlines will assist medical efforts. With its expertise and experience, perhaps Loganair may need to develop even more of its fleet into air ambulance.
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