Starting operations in 1989, Redstar Aviation (RSA) was one of the pioneers of air ambulance services in Turkey, being the first local company to be granted an AOC licence for air ambulance services from the Turkish Ministry of Transportation. In 2003, four ICU-equipped PZL Swidnik Mi-2 helicopters were added to the firm’s fleet, thus introducing HEMS to the country. In 1994, another first was added to the list, when RSA was granted the first Private Ambulance Service Operating Certificate in the country. The Turkish Ministry of Health now covers helicopter air ambulance services in the country so RSA is focused on its fixed-wing business.
Redstar’s shares were taken over by Gulf Helicopters Company (GHC) in 2014, which led to a series of structural and management changes. With the involvement of GHC, RSA has adopted a new business strategy, a fresher brand image and improved operational capabilities which is now resulting in an increased scope of operations, and a widening customer base.
RSA has four Bombardier Learjet 45s, two of which are XRs, and all are dedicated air ambulances. Due to an increasing volume of flights, there are plans to increase this fleet over time, with a longer-range aircraft to be added at some point in the future, according to Ozan Alemdaroğlu of Redstar. There are also plans to work with Gulf Helicopters, which operators 60 rotary craft, to offer maintenance and training services. Redstar’s aircraft are based at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport.
• 2x Spectrum Aeromed Stretcher
• Corpuls3 Slim (Transport Monitor/Defibrillators)
• Hamilton T1 (Transport ICU Ventilator)
• Weinmann Medumat Transport with Neonatal Option (Transport ICU Ventilator)
• EPOC (Blood Gas Analyzer)
• Stephan F-120 Mobil
• Weinmann Accuvac Pro (Suctioning Device)
• Oxylog 3000 (Transport ICU Ventilators)
• David Medical TI-2000 (Transport Incubator)
• Welch Allyn Propaq LT (ECG, NIBP, SpO2)
• Braun Perfusor (Syringe Pump)
• Braun Infusomat Space (Infusion Pump)
There are 68 full-time staff working at Redstar, which includes pilots, medical crew and office-based staff. Key senior staff are: Celal Emre Dursun (Accountable Manager); Ozan Alemdaroğlu (Business Development Manager) and Adnan Bölükbaş (Operations Manager).
Flying in the face of danger
Operating out of Turkey, Alemdaroğlu explained, means that the company is well placed to operate flights into Libya, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Such flights are undertaken only after thorough risk assessments have been carried out, usually undertaken by members of staff that are ex-military and are thus familiar with these regions and the risks they represent. When patients are collected from high-risk countries, RSA has an agreement that it will only do tarmac transfers, where the patient is brought to the aircraft, to minimise risks to the crew. There are no overnight stops, and a maximum waiting time of four hours. As ever with air ambulance flights, though, there have to be contingency plans in place for alternative arrangements, because if there were to be, for instance, a problem with the aircraft, it can be difficult to quickly source spare parts and perform the necessary maintenance.
Implementing and then maintaining high standards is crucial to the safe and successful operation of any air ambulance firm, and accreditation is one of the ways in which firms can show clients that they are a high-quality organisation. RSA is an accredited service provider for the International Assistance Group (IAG), has ISO9001-2009 accreditation, and has also recently finalised its audit with EURAMI – the European Aero-Medical Institute, and is just awaiting its paperwork. While such accolades demonstrate a commitment to quality and safety, Alemdaroğlu told AirMed&Rescue that in reality, clients do not often ask whether or not the company has such accreditations. Being a provider for IAG, however, has changed the company’s business – with a client portfolio spanning the world, this gives RSA a higher profile on the international market, and makes it easier to reach clients directly, according to Alemdaroğlu.
With plans to extend maintenance capabilities and expand the fleet in order to cover more regions, there is no doubt that RSA has ambitions for the future. Keeping quality high while expanding, said Alemdaroğl, is key to maintaining the success it has seen in the past 30 years of operations.