The purchase of a new aircraft is always an exciting time for anyone. It is even more exciting when you are a medevac company and purchase one! The thought of something new, and being able to outfit it with new equipment, and become more efficient, is extremely exciting. However, that process is not done simply with the quick snap of a finger or clicking ‘buy now’.
Conversion is unique to each air medical operation
Each organization is different when it comes to deciding the aircraft that will be chosen. For us, the most important thing from a medical aspect was that, whatever aircraft was chosen, a Spectrum Aeromed or Lifeport Stretcher system could be utilized safely and appropriately. We also know that after years of utilizing executive-size aircraft doors on Lear 35 and 55s, they are not ideal door sizes for many patient transports. We knew from a medical aspect that if those items are addressed when purchasing a new aircraft, we will be able to outfit the aircraft appropriately.
What were we looking for to meet our needs for medical purposes? Obviously, we needed to make sure our stretcher systems fit and work with whatever aircraft frame is chosen. Next, we address how exactly we can mount our durable medical equipment such as our IV pumps, cardiac monitor, and ventilator.
Wall mounted equipment
When outfitting a new aircraft from charter to medevac configuration, this is the perfect time to add a wall mount. Over the years, we have seen unnecessary damage to our durable equipment from repeatedly placing them in different locations, and constantly taking them in and out of aircraft. We have also seen unnecessary damage done to the interior of the aircraft due to this repeated moving and different placement of equipment, and we recognized that this was an area that needed to be addressed. The medical management team did a lot of research into many wall mount units for aircraft, and ultimately chose one that would accommodate all our durables and was customizable in the event that we may change to a different durable in the future. It was ideal to purchase this wall mount during the conversion period because the wall mount required being mounted to the frame of the aircraft. Through research on this wall mount, it was important that it also had the appropriate supplemental type certificate (STC) already for the Lear 45XR that we had chosen. When the STC is approved, it approves the modification to the aircraft as well as how it affects the original design of the aircraft. Obviously, these modifications are not cheap, so it is crucial that the medical team has a full understanding of the modification, and can guarantee that it will work appropriately once purchased and installed.
The next item is storage inside. Will we have enough storage for the necessary medical supplies and equipment? In years past with the Lear 35 and 55, we were able to stow our additional medical supplies and bags in the rear behind the back seat. With the Lear 45XR, the extra baggage is stowed underneath the aircraft in the rear, and only accessible from outside. With this, we knew that we would need to install additional cabinets inside the aircraft so that we can guarantee that we always have the necessary inventory within reach at all times, and available for emergency use. Medical cabinets would be another modification, and would also require an additional STC.
It’s important that the medical team be very clear in identifying how much cabinet space is needed inside the aircraft
It’s important that the medical team be very clear in identifying how much cabinet space is needed inside the aircraft, because if you have to modify again at a later date, it will cost more money, along with another approved STC. There are many options available for medical cabinets, and you also can have them custom made like we ended up having done.
We addressed the stretcher, wall mounts, and cabinets, leaving seat configuration and seat covers. It may sound silly, but this is something that may not be thought about at first. It is important that the seating be appropriate in the aircraft, and that the personnel can be seated in the correct areas by the patient. A true charter configuration seating is not the ideal seating scenario when the stretcher is installed inside the 45XR, and the first seat needs to be turned around so as to be able to easily see the monitor and the patient head. This is something that would be identified by medical personnel who routinely fly on medevac missions. Seat covers are also important because they are easy to clean, and it protects the seats themselves. With all the spraying and cleaning inside the aircraft, it is smart to have seat covers because it will make cleaning much easier. Plus, replacing seat covers is much more affordable than seats themselves.
More effort than at first glance!
As you can see, a lot of thought and effort go into converting an aircraft from charter to medevac configuration. Its crucial that it be done correctly from the beginning and the right individuals be involved throughout the decision-making process. We recommend a committee that involves representatives from the leadership, medical, aviation, safety, and maintenance teams to make these decisions. It is important that everything is communicated as a team and signed off on before purchasing or making any changes. Medical and aviation spend the most amount of time in these aircraft. It’s important that medical explain what is needed and why it is needed. It is understood that all these items cost a lot of money, but we also understand if it is not done correctly, it could cost more in the long run if we are forced to continually replace damaged equipment that is not properly stowed, or damaged interior from repeatedly taking equipment in and out of the cabin.