|WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER HAS STATE-OF-THE-ART AIRCRAFT FOR TRAUMA PATIENT TRANSPORT
January 1, 1999
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 1, 2000 - Inclement weather and low visibility no longer will be deterrents for Washington Hospital Center helicopters that respond to emergency medical situations.
The Hospital Center now has the only single-pilot IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) aircraft that contains state-of-the-art computer equipment allowing the helicopter to take-off and land in less than ideal weather conditions. The helicopter is manufactured by American Eurocopter and is scheduled to be in service by mid-December.
"This helicopter is the state-of-the-art air ambulance transport and the aircraft is a pilot's dream. This new aircraft gives us an enhanced margin of safety when flying regardless of the weather. It gives us the additional capability of being able to fly in weather in which we're currently not able to fly. It's also the first IFR-certified craft of its kind in the United States and the Hospital Center is the first hospital in this area to have an aircraft with these capabilities," said Edward Rupert, the Hospital Center's MedSTAR Transport program director.
Federal Aviation Administration guidelines currently call for daytime flight minimums of 500-foot ceilings and one mile of visibility before takeoff is allowed. At night, those standards are 800-foot ceilings with two miles of visibility. The new MedSTAR Transport helicopter contains a point-space Global Positioning System (GPS) allowing it to safely operate in conditions in which current Visual Flight Rules (VFR) aircraft are not allowed to fly.
"The GPS system means that the helicopter will be able to leave and arrive safely when the weather is not good. Another major difference between the new aircraft and the older ones is that the older ones have to be hand-flown, meaning the pilot constantly has to have both hands and both feet on the control mechanisms and they physically have to manipulate those controls to make the aircraft respond. The new helicopter is equipped with an autopilot, so once it's in the air the GPS and the autopilot can simply be programmed to go to a specific destination," said Rupert.
The aircraft is equipped with fenestron tail rotors, opposed to exposed rotors, making it faster, quieter and more fuel-efficient. It has an oil-heating system allowing for quicker take-offs and has a three-hour fuel range compared to the two-hour range of the aircraft currently used by the Hospital Center. Rupert said the Hospital Center is going to keep its two older helicopters to help reduce medical emergency response time in the Chesapeake region. One of the aircraft will be based in southern Maryland and staffed by Hospital Center pilots and flight crews.
Hospital Center aircraft have flown more than 1,700 transports during fiscal year 2000, and MedSTAR transport is on pace for 2,100 flights totaling more than 100,000 miles. In its 17 years of operation, the service has had more than 25,000 transports. Hospital Center aircraft also serve Children's Hospital National Medical Center and Georgetown University Hospital as well as other trauma-care centers in the Washington-Baltimore area. The Hospital Center's trauma unit is a verified Level-One trauma center by the American College of Surgeons and is the only hospital in the District of Columbia with such certification.
Washington Hospital Center is a 926-bed, acute care teaching and research hospital based in Northwest Washington, D.C. It is the largest private hospital in the nation's capital and has the thirteenth-highest patient volume in the United States. The Hospital Center is home to the nation's third-largest cardiac program. It also has a comprehensive Cancer Institute; a full range of women's services; an extensive organ transplantation program; one of the nation's top shock/trauma centers; and the most advanced burn center in the region