Painted bright UC red and black, a new, state-of-the-art EC145 helicopter is joining the UC Health Air Care and Mobile Care fleet providing advanced transport medicine to the Tristate.
The new helicopter will replace one of Air Care’s current BK117 helicopters and be stationed at UC Health University Hospital. A second, identical EC145 will arrive in
December and be stationed at the Butler County Airport.
The new helicopter is 7 inches wider and 13 inches longer than the BK117—but the small difference carries a big impact, allowing the team to access the entire patient, head to toe, for care. It’s also able to carry 900 pounds more for additional personnel or equipment.
"It’s substantially wider and that makes a big difference when working with patients,” says Air Care flight nurse Joe Gucwa. "We’re also getting substantial equipment upgrades with this aircraft—new heart monitors with 12-lead EKG and EKG transmission capability and military spec ventilators.”
The new EC145, manufactured by Eurocopter, is part of UC Health’s contract with Metro Aviation, which will provide pilots, mechanics and parts. An interdisciplinary committee of UC Health Air Care personnel, including flight nurses and physicians, mechanics and pilots, worked with Metro Aviation to custom design the interior, including a modular system for storing medical equipment inside the aircraft.
Gucwa was part of the team that designed the interior. He says that while previous helicopters were designed only to fit the equipment of the time, the new aircraft is designed "like a giant Lego.”
"As medical devices evolve, we’ll be able to add in new equipment very easily,” he says. "Our helicopter won’t be obsolete in 20 years—and it will keep Air Care open to new technology.”
Enhanced safety features include an all-glass cockpit with night vision goggle compatibility, built-in weather radar and airport landing maps, energy-absorbing seats and fuselage, and avoidance systems to detect both other aircraft in the area and obstacles near the landing zone.
"It detects aircraft farther than what we can see sometimes,” says pilot Bob Francis, "and it sounds a verbal warning when the aircraft are within a two-mile bubble of the aircraft. From a pilot’s perspective, we’re very excited to fly it. It’s a top of the line aircraft that uses all the available technology to improve the safety of our mission.”
The helicopter will be part of an invitation-only celebration Thursday, Sept. 13, "Past, Present and Future of UC Health University Hospital,” in the University Hospital lobby. The event will also serve to preview a new permanent lobby exhibit showcasing University Hospital’s history of innovation and discovery.
A week before the event, UC Interim President Santa Ono, PhD, UC Health President and CEO James Kingsbury, and University Hospital President and CEO Brian Gibler, MD, were able to take a ride on the helicopter and get a sneak peek inside.
"We’re thrilled to have our impressive Air Care teams operate in this new, state-of-the-art aircraft,” says Gibler. "This helicopter will allow our flight teams to transport patients faster and more safely, using the absolute latest in medical and aviation technology."