Air Ambulances diverted from hospital helipads

A safety rule is disrupting Air Ambulance service in B.C.

The lack of sufficient windows in Helijet aircraft has caused a number of Air Ambulance flights in the Lower Mainland to divert away from hospitals recently.

Air Ambulances, operated by Helijet, are currently banned from helipads for safety reasons.

Helipads in urban areas have the most restrictive rules, because pilots need to be able to land safely in emergency situations.

Airports have slightly less restrictive rules.

This has sent the Air Ambulances to nearby small airports when trying to get patients to regional trauma centres like New Westminster’s Royal Columbian Hospital.

The closest small airport to Royal Columbian is in Pitt Meadows.

A Transport Canada spokesperson said the matter has to do with visibility.

“One of several specific requirements is a vertical visibility pilot door which improves the pilot’s ability to see the landing area immediately below the aircraft in the event of an emergency landing,” said Sau Sau Liu.

“We are working with Helijet, the BC Emergency Health Services and the Provincial Health Authority regarding this matter,” said Liu.

Helijet is currently working with Transport Canada on an exemption to the technical rule, said Helijet’s Rick Hill, vice president of communications and business programs.

He could not say whether the aircraft will be modified to bring them in line with the safety standard.

“That would be something that would be decided through the process,” Hill said. “At this point, no.”

Helijet has been using Sikorsky S76 helicopters to provide Air Ambulance service in B.C. since 1998.

The safety issue was only recently discovered.


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