Based in Mexico, Jet Rescue provides international fixed-wing air ambulance services to insurance and private clients. James Paul Wallis spoke to CEO Carlos Salinas to find out more about the company’s progression and future plans
With its headquarters in Mexico City, Jet Rescue positions itself as the largest fixed-wing air ambulance company in Mexico and Central America. The service has been flying patients since 1994, specialising in long-range, critical-care air ambulance missions using its own fleet of dedicated medical aircraft. Since its foundation, it has completed thousands of patient transports around the world in its own aircraft, and also provides commercial medical escort and ground ambulance services. Jet Rescue is the marketing brand for Mexican air operator’s certificate holder Med Jets S.A. de C.V. The service has been a member of the US-based Association of Air Medical Services since 2011.
The base in Mexico City allows Jet Rescue to quickly respond to tourist destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean, including Cuba. The firm says it offers the best response time in the industry (less than two hours) to popular destinations such as Cozumel, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Ixtapa, San Felipe, Puerto Peñasco and Guerrero Negro. In the winter, Jet Rescue also flies from a seasonal base in Guadalajara, Mexico, and has a permanent base across the border in Miami, US. Given the emergency nature of the business, ensuring that evacuation services can be provided in a timely manner is essential. Salinas commented: “In Mexico and other places in Latin America, the airports are not opened 24 hours – they close at night. With the right relationships and contacts, we are able to open those airports to operate emergency missions at night.”
Calls come in via Jet Rescue’s 24-hour mission control centre, which is run by Chief Flight Co-ordinator Rafael Meade.
According to Jet Rescue, its success and efficiency depends on its most important asset: its people. The medical side of the business is headed by medical director Dr Xochitl Padua, a physician/paramedic who specialises in critical care and internal medicine. All medical personnel undergo initial orientation and ‘uphold stringent continuing education requirements on an annual basis’.
The company states: “All of our medical staff are board certified, have extensive training in aviation medicine and flight physiology, and have at least five years’ experience in emergency medicine. They undergo a rigorous initial orientation prior to flying with patients. Additionally, all medical personnel participate in 100 hours of didactic and clinical continuing education annually. We also perform a quality review following each trip.”
Standard medical equipment onboard each aircraft includes a stretcher, oxygen, suction and medical air, a volumetric ventilator, a cardiac monitor/defibrillator, multiparameter invasive and non-invasive monitoring, resuscitation equipment, advanced airway management equipment, a three channel infusion pump, IV, and an ACLS drug complement, along with any other specialised equipment necessary for each individual patient. A wide array of antibiotics are carried to treat bacterial and parasitic infections. Other kit that Jet Rescue offers, added Salinas, includes a portable ultrasound machine, and a Seattle Tarp/STC Environmental Specialty Products Isolation Chamber for the transport of infectious patients. On the subject of infection control, Jet Rescue is also one of the few providers on the market that makes use of the SaniSwiss, a water-based antimicrobial technology that uses a tiny concentration (<1.5 per cent) of H202 (hydrogen peroxide) to kill germs from a portable robotic device.
Among Jet Rescue’s specialisms is neonatal specialty care. Neonatal air ambulance missions always include two critical care neonatal nurses and a neonatologist trained in neonatal advanced life support. For these missions, the crew is able to benefit from transport incubators, neonatal critical care equipment and ventilators, and nitric oxide systems. Salinas added: “For neonatal transfers in the US, we have contact with Miami Children’s Hospital to transport patients on our jets with their medical staff.”
Jet Rescue owns and operates all of its planes, which the firm says allows it ‘to configure the jets with dedicated air ambulance interiors and the latest in medical technology’. The fixed-wing fleet consists of 10 Learjets: two 25Ds (which the company will soon dispose of), five 35s, two 55s and a 60.
Overseen by Chief Pilot Paulo Bello, flight crews complete simulator training in the relevant aircraft type, perform US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) check rides and fulfil all other FAA requirements. For the captains, this involves semi-annual simulator training with FlightSafety or Simuflite, in the make and model aircraft they fly; for first officers the training is annual.
Alongside the fixed-wing aircraft, Jet Rescue also owns two ground ambulances and a helicopter.
One of the things that makes Jet Rescue different to other air ambulance operators is its transparency – according to the company, it is the only air ambulance provider in the world to publishes its rate card online. For example, use of the service’s medical aircraft is charged at $20.00 per loaded mile, international landings at $850, and ground ambulances at $1,500 per patient transfer. Medical equipment and supplies are charged at $500 per flight, and overnight expenses per crew member come in at $275. Salinas explained the rationale behind sharing a break-down of costs: “We want full transparency for our clients. In some cases, private paying clients are able to figure out on their own whether they can afford a flight or not without even contacting us.”
More than international flights
There’s more to Jet Rescue than international fixed-wing patient flights. For example, the company has conducted joint missions with the Mexican Air Force and Federal Police, assisting them with medical teams and equipment to transport multiple patients onboard C-130 and the B727 aircraft. Salinas explained: “Those missions were conducted within Mexico in certain cases in which they required advanced critical care support, especially in situations like combat against drug cartels in Michoacan and Guerrero.”
The company also offers a helicopter under the ‘Heli Rescue’ brand. The BO105 is used to fly paying patients or members who pay $300 per year subscription, providing what it says is the only medical helicopter service in Mexico.
As well as taking patients on its own jets, the company offers commercial medical escort services. Jet Rescue works closely with major airlines to repatriate patients on stretchers or as sitting patients. The firm owns and uses portable oxygen concentrators for use onboard airlines that allow them to do this.
Adding a further string to its bow, Jet Rescue conducts organ transport flights for hospitals within Mexico.
Recent years have seen a marked increase in demand, said Salinas, and Jet Rescue continues to develop its fleet and services offered. He commented: “We have grown in the past three years at a rate of 40-per-cent call volume increase each year. Our fleet has grown from four jets to 10 and a helicopter. We have focused on long-range advanced critical care where there is less competition – basically transporting what others can’t.” The company has concentrated on developing its capabilities to transport neonates, high-risk obstetric patients and infectious patients, said Salinas: “We have heavily invested in the latest equipment including isolation units and Hamilton T1 ventilators.” He added that Jet Rescue is the only carrier in the Americas with ultrasound onboard. In October 2017, Jet Rescue added video laryngoscopes to the flight equipment.
The company is also engaged in a programme to renovate the aircraft fleet. Salinas explained: “In the last year, we have been going through a cockpit modernisation in all aircraft, installing TCAS 7.1 and ADSB in and out, as well as dual Garmin 750s on all jets.” The firm is also changing the models of planes in the line-up: “We have already purchased our first Learjet 60, and we aim to get rid of most of our 35s. We will get into the heavy jet market, either with a Challenger or a Falcon.”