Ornge paramedics and pilots, who are employed by Canadian Helicopters Ltd. (CHL), the operator of Ornge rotor aircraft, will begin transporting patients in the new high-performance twin turbine helicopters over the coming months. Ornge purchased 10 AW-139 aircraft from AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, in 2008 to replace the existing, older fleet of Sikorsky S-76 helicopters currently in use at Ornge bases across the province.
“As innovators in our field, we are on the cutting edge of both aviation and medicine,” said Dr. Christopher Mazza, Ornge CEO and emergentologist. “The AW-139 medically equipped aircraft will help us deliver a modern, high quality, sustainable transport medicine program for Ontario patients today and for generations to come.”
The AW-139 is one of the most technologically advanced helicopters in medical transport. It is the fastest aircraft in its class, is capable if operating in a wide variety of weather conditions – from extreme heat to extreme cold – which is conducive to Ontario’s varying climates. Ornge is also the first North American client to have a full ice protection installed in medically-equipped helicopters. The AW-139 also has several enhanced safety and environmental features.
“We are proud to be part of this new era in transport medicine in Ontario, providing the best medium-twin helicopter to such a leading operator and to the benefit of the community,” said Giuseppe Orsi, CEO of AgustaWestland. “The AW-139 will enable Ornge to perform a quantum leap forward in operational capability to successfully accomplish the mission and save lives in the harshest conditions.”
Each AW-139 is outfitted with an advanced full-medical interior designed and configured by Ornge transport physicians and paramedics in collaboration with Aerolite, a world leader in medical helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft interiors.
Kendal Beatty, an assistant chief pilot with Canadian Helicopters EMS who brought one of the new aircraft in for the crowd to admire, said the new AW-139s are a worthy choice for Ornge. When comparing the new aircraft to the S-76 he said, “It’s a lot heavier than the S-76, but it’s also a lot more spacious in the cabin. We’re skipping a couple of generations in terms of technology in the cockpit. We’re going from what we call on the S-76 ‘steam gauges,’ which is an exaggeration but individual gauges, to all composite screens, LCD screens in the cockpit. There is some transition involved, but once you do it, there’s much more information available, there’s a capable auto pilot system on the aircraft, it’s got the latest modes of autoflight on a helicopter, pretty much anything you can think of, you can do in automated mode.”
Beatty is also impressed with the AW-139’s power. “It’s a very powerful aircraft. In the AW-139, you can go right up to gross weight, and you still have plenty of margin. I absolutely love flying this aircraft.”
Manufactured in Philadelphia, the AW-139 boasts a maximum take-off weight of 6,800 kg (14,991 lbs), and a maximum range of 1,250 km (675 nautical miles). Its top cruising speed is 309 km/hr.