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Which bird for EMS in Desert...?

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Dear All,


I'm a FW EMS pilot in Africa (Sahara).

Due to the situation our customers asking us what would be the benefit to have a Helo compare to our Twin Otter for Medevac.


It could take up to 3-5 hours to evacuate 2-3 stretchers to hospital when a cars / trucks accident happen.


We could be sent up to 200nm from a suitable hospital.

In Summer we have 45-50°C outside and we operate between 500 and 2000ft AGL. Day and night, VFR or IFR, single or multicrew.


Our main problems is the DA and hot temperature, then useful load, speed, etc as usual.


So far we operate FW because we could get airborne with 1000- 1500 kg useful load up to 50°C at 7000ft, have 400nm range and land on unprepared runways.


On the closest Airport I have seen a B206L3, the guy told me that after 9AM local, He could not Take-off anymore due to DA and temperature.


My question is what kind of helo could be suitable to fulfill our needs taking in account our environment and mission?


As a private helicopter pilot, I though about AS355, EC145, EC155, EC130T2, B412, B407... but I can't have some clue of performances.


Thanks to give me some clues.



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The AS350 might work. Keep in mind that helicopters are useful only for landing in confined areas where fixed-wing aircraft can't land. They're slow, inefficient, and have a small payload. In any situation where a fixed-wing aircraft can be used, they're much better, because they are faster, more efficient, and can carry more payload. The AS350, and most of the other helicopters you listed, can carry only one patient, if that. The 412 can carry more patients, but the range is limited, and it's not a fast aircraft.

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Thanks for your reply Gomer.


Our customers think in order to save time, to add the capacity to land on the spot.


Today when a crash happens, the casualties are first sent by ambulance to nearest airfield where we can land (sometimes up to 16 or 20kms), then we fly them to the nearest "Airport" and again he is driven to a suitable hospital by ambulance. It's time consuming and sometimes I had 5 hours between the call and the patient reach Hospital....much too long!


I'm agree about everywhere a FW can be used, it's more efficient, in Ethiopia for example we are the only one to be able to take off in airport at 7000' altitude with 50°C outside, the Mi8 there was not able to do it.


Any idea about AS350 IGE OGE performance @ 5000' DA with ISA+35°?



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Agreed, the A-star AS350 would be a good choice. Someone on VR flies one with the ems package in those temps, I also see the Augusta used a lot. JD flies in Phoenix in similar DA. Look up JDHelicopterpilot

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The AS350B3 or the AS350B3e would work well. Good useful load and performance. The AS350 series (B2,B3 and B3e) is a High, Hot and Heavy single engine helicopter. The tail rotor is very effective. It's just slow and the patient lies right next to the pilot.


I also flew the A119. Another good aircraft. It handled the summers well (120 degrees F). Main issue with the A119K is depending on the EMS interior installed you may not have much useful load left if you take a patient from base. Now the A119Ke offers a little more useful load and performace. I enjoyed the A119 for the speed and system redundancy it had. Also, it has SAS and attitude hold. Systems found on twin engine helicopters. This made pilot workload easier should I need to tune radios, look at a chart or just be hands off for a short time on a long flight. Also, the Patient is out of view and in the back.


In the heat of the Summer the AS350B2 did about 100knts. The B3 and B3e will be a little faster. In the Winter look for about 110-120. The A119 in the summer does 130 and 140-150 in the Winter.


You are going to have a hard time finding a helicopter with a 200nm range. I flew the AS350B2 and maxed my range out at near 140nm one way.


FYI Goldy, I no longer fly the AS350 or the A119 as of January 2012 I am in the B407 and soon the A109 SPIFR. Moved from Las Vegas to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Edited by JDHelicopterPilot
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Can't remark on the AS350B3, never even sat in one.

The AS350 B2 would be limited at the density altitude specified, not to mention ranges would require reducing medical equipment and/or patient weight. My experience is that one starts bumping MGTO limits at about 4000' DA for vertical departures. With all the junk, er- "indispensable medical equipment" we carry, weight and balance routinely limit us to one patient and even then patient weight can be an issue. I suspect similar CG issues would limit the B3, not to mention patient access.

The AStars with max fuel have about 2:40 until reserve, at 115-120 knots, radius without refuel might be an issue.

AStars work pretty well on 100 nm legs if you only have to plan to carry a single 350 lb patient. The B2 might work in very open country, the B3 would probably have power (according to rep in industry) and somewhat better range but little, if any, more patient weight due to CG.


The 407 might work, better CG and speed, don't know about range or power, but still single patient.

Edited by Wally
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In the Summer heat you won't see the AS350 go 115-120. Some days I could only do 100knts. In AZ at SL up 4000' (Grand Canyon Rim)I had no problems. Once we put the approved weight in the tail the CG issue went away. I never ran into CG issues and have carried some heavy patients.


I fly the B407 now. The AS350B2 and B407 have similar performance. The tailrotor on the AS350 is much better though. The AS350B3 and B3e would out perform the 407 for sure. The one thing the 407 has is more speed. It is harder to load a patient in a 407 and there is less patient access in it as well.


Really, every helicopter is going to suffer performace at High DA. From what I see (single engine) though the B3 and B3e are the best performers in High DA. Just slow and not much patient access.

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To all,


Thanks a lot for your inputs.

So far, what I understand is the best match would be:


Single engine: AS350B2 or B3


Multi engine: A119 or A109.

As used by rega in switzerland.

But if he want to get a real capability, he should think multi engine, means here: multi crew.


Just to give you an idea, last week, we had a call... OAT: 48C, dew point -3C, QNH 1002, airfield elevation 620ft. A rough calculation gives us a DA of 4800ft with ISA+40C.

Even our bold PC-6 was limited to 43C ISA.

Summer in Sahara I guess is more or like like in AZ or so.


I think we should seat with our customer and tell him that an helicopter could be an asset, but it need to put a lot of money to afford a real capable one.

No discussion about the maintenance until now, I guess this subject will be "fun".

I just have a look about chinook from Us Army in Afghanistan...oups!


My point of view is in order to have more margin and more efficiency, all customers around need to build a hospital, with bloc and real doctors and so one closer, then he could afford a helicopter.


I didn't see any advantage to have a helicopter and still need to fly 150 nm to the next airport and then transfers by road to hospital.


Again, I'm not a helicopter pilot or any kind of people who pay the bill, I'm just a fixed plank driver here...


I really think moving from fixed to rotary, but outside from here.


Cheers, fly safe to all...



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Hi Renaud!


I'm in sub-saharan Africa and I'm working on much the same thing at the moment. Same situation: only fixed wing rescue, far distances between airports, etc., except that our base altitude is already a mile high with T 30-40°C and mountains of 15,000+ feet.


For single engine our choice boiled down to

  • AS-350 B3 - greatest performance in hot & high, excellent 3rd party equipment supply (winch, EMS kits). Limited from a paramedics point of view though (very restricted access)
  • EC-130 T2 - will have a similarly good performance as the B3 but much better access to the patient in flight + 2 patient capability (last resort, not feasible in day-to-day ops). Not much 3rd party equipment available (Air Methods STC's, the EC OEM stretcher kit is a joke)

Unfortunately twin engine is just not cost effective around here.


Edit: I just looked up the numbers for the AS-350 B3: @ 5000' / 35°C: 5200 lbs max weight for OGE hover. The IGE chart doesn't even bother to start before reaching the 7000' / 40°C / MGW mark. So plenty performance.

Operating limitation is ISA+35°C / 50°C

Edited by Hawkeye0001
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Hi Reanaud;


I have experience with the AS-350B3e, and I would personally look close at this aircraft for your needs. In fact, I would be more than happy to come do training and check rides for you!

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Thank you for your replies,


Actually all datas are in the hands of customers.


The 2 challengers are: AS350 B3 for single, A109K2 for multi.


Now as we said in Africa:


The white man have the watches, the black man have the time!


Akuna matata!


Keep you in touch ASAP!




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