By Ricky Reno
It’s chaos in the war zone. Soldiers are lying injured on the ground, many with life-threatening wounds; yet there is little way to fly them to the medical attention they need. This was the reality of battle before World War II. It was very difficult to fly wounded soldiers to receive the medical care they need. In fact the first air evacuation of soldiers from the site of injury took place in what was then Burma, right around the time of World War II. The first use of helicopters for medevac, however, occurred unintentionally. It was during the Korean War, when roads were deemed too rough and unreliable for the gentle take off airplanes required. Instead, the Army began rerouting helicopters from other missions to pick up critically wounded and fly them quickly to care — often in time for life and limb-saving surgery. The concept was immediately successful. It carried on into the Vietnam war, and then made its way into the commercial market around 1970. Not long after that, our team here at Spectrum Aeromed started work in 1991.
Right away, it was clear that helicopter medevac realm was a huge need. Customer requests pushed us to expand our work in the helicopter realm, illustrating that this was truly crucial work to be done. Today, in addition to designing and developing air ambulance medical interiors for airplanes, we equip helicopters as well. Customers can visit our facility in Fargo, North Dakota, USA and we’re able to custom tailor our product to them. It starts by talking with the operators to get ideas of what they’d like to see in the aircraft, and talking to flight paramedics and nurses to hear day-to-day experiences. We then take all that material and turn it into a new design. With each design we are able to turn their needs into a reality.
This is no easy task. To give you just a glimpse into the challenges of helicopter medevac design — take the weight sensitivity. Everything is weight sensitive, so we are limited on the amount of weight we can use in the aircraft. We have to be careful balancing the customer needs and fitting them into a tight spot. There’s a lot to the ergonomics of the design and installation. We have to think, what works best for the person sitting in each location? How would they be able to perform each task? It’s kind of like solving a puzzle.
And at Spectrum Aeromed, we have the team of puzzle-solvers to do the job. With my experience as a helicopter pilot and mechanic in the Army, and with the Special Forces, I can bring the operational experience in both aviation and medical side to the table. Each person on our team brings a similar level of expertise, allowing us to create thoughtful, intelligent design. The level of expertise has not gone unnoticed, either. As Spectrum Aeromed’s Vice President of Military and Government Initiatives for the past 5 years, I’ve seen our helicopter medevac business expand by about 10 times as we continue to bring in new designs. We’re happy to see this part of our business continue to grow. It is a privilege to take part in the life-saving work that began decades ago, and continues to reach new levels of efficiency and care.
If you’re interested:
Spectrum Aeromed has the capability to customize whatever the customer is looking for – in an existing aircraft or one that they plan to purchase. No matter where you are in the world, we have a dedicated sales representative for you. You can find your contact here.
Ricky Reno serves as the VP of Military & Government Initiatives, and Account Representative for Spectrum Aeromed. He joined Spectrum Aeromed in 2012. He has been in the Aviation Industry for over 27 years as a Commercial Helicopter Pilot, Flight Instructor, and Airframe & Powerplant Technician. He also retired from the US Army after 22 years where he served as a Black Hawk Pilot. Ricky has been awarded the prestigious Sikorsky Rescue Award for his role in the life saving efforts using a Sikorsky Aircraft.