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BC launches first new Beechcraft King Air 360CHW air ambulance

By Ben Forrest | June 12, 2024

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 39 seconds.

British Columbia has begun service with the first of 12 new fixed-wing air ambulances, part of a $673 million fleet renewal that will expand in-air capabilities and improve access to hard-to-reach areas.

B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) is acquiring the new Beechcraft King Air 360CHW air ambulances through Carson Air, the sole provider of ambulance airplane services in the province.

“When someone you love is critically ill or injured, they deserve the best and fastest care possible,” said David Eby, premier of British Columbia, in a statement.

“Throughout this vast province, we are building new hospitals, cancer-care clinics and urgent primary care centres. By deploying new air ambulances, we are ensuring patients get the quality care they need quickly.”

The new Beechcraft King Air 360CHW aircraft can land on gravel runways, provide in-air extracorporeal membrane oxygenation life support, transport neonatal patients in biomedical transport incubators, and transport bariatric patients—all expanded capabilities from the legacy fleet.

Only one of the legacy aircraft could transport bariatric patients, and only in daytime flight configuration.

The new fleet can also transport patients in EpiShuttles, a kind of mobile medical isolation unit for persons with infectious diseases. The existing fleet had only one aircraft that could support these patients, and only in day-time configuration.

The ability to land on gravel runways will increase healthcare access for Indigenous, northern, rural and remote communities, the province said.

“B.C.’s air ambulances make sure that patients, often with the most critical-care needs, can quickly access the health care they need,” said Adrian Dix, minister of health.

“Upgrading B.C.’s fleet with next-generation airplanes means patients will have improved comfort and care during transport, while paramedics benefit from consistent features and layout across the fleet.”

Nine of the new aircraft will be in regular operation, with three each stationed in Vancouver and Kelowna, two in Prince George and one in Fort St. John. The remaining three aircraft will be backups.

In B.C., fixed-wing air ambulances are workhorses for rapid response to far-flung areas. About 70 percent of calls are for service use airplanes, while only 30 percent require helicopters. 

The new King Airs also have power stretcher capability, a streamlined uniform layout and design, latest-generation glass cockpit and enhanced vision systems, along with a connected cabin with Wi-Fi capability and a large electronically-controlled cabin door.

BCEHS is said to be the largest paramedic and ambulance service in Canada. The first aircraft entered service on May 1, 2024.

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