There are a range of factors to considering before we make our final choice and as you can imagine this is big decision for us. We are fortunate that we have a number of independent advisors assisting us in this task.
Apart from the obvious, there are other reasons speed is important. When flying over water and at night, time to land (i.e. 10 mins to reach land) influences safety considerations. Speed also influences cost, but not in the way you may think. One of the major costs is the time rotors are running. The faster the helicopter, the shorter the journey time and thus the less time the helicopter is running.
The overall weight of the helicopter influences how much equipment and people can be carried, as well as the ability to land on hospital helipads pads in the UK. Some helicopters the UK Coastguard fly are too heavy for some hospital helipads and as a result have to land close by, adding extra time and cost due to having to arrange an ambulance to make the transfer.
This is one of the most critical elements for us. Flying at night and in poor weather requires a higher amount of reserve fuel on board. We need to be be able to fly to all the required destinations and ideally return without refuelling.
Patient transfers can require a lot of equipment to be flown with and connected to the patient. Working with our medical advisors here in the Islands and the UK, we have to asses the any particular aircraft is able to transport, with ease, the patient and equipment, plus any accompanying staff.
We are currently considering 4 aircraft, which all vary in aspects above. Two are smaller, lighter and cheaper to operate as well as being readily available (Airbus H135 and the AugustaWestland 109 Grand New), the remaining two are larger, but cost more to operate as well as a having a longer waiting time for delivery (Airbus H145 and the AugustaWestland 169).
In January 2019 we carried out some inter island flight tests with the Airbus 135 and we will be doing the same with the remaining 3 over the coming months.