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Mayo Clinic Introduces New, State-of-the-Art Emergency Medical Helicopter


ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic is taking a proactive approach to safety and clinical expertise with its fleet of emergency medical helicopters, know as Mayo One. The newest Mayo One aircraft, based in the Chippewa Valley region, is an American Eurocopter EC145 and is among the most advanced aircraft and well-equipped medical care and transport helicopters in the country.

The new Mayo One helicopter, designed to transfer critically ill or injured medical and trauma patients, carries additional safety equipment recommended by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Mayo added more safety features to better protect patients and crew.

Mayo Clinic provided input into designing the medical care area inside the aircraft. Among the customized, high-tech safety features are: systems to alert pilots of proximity to terrain; visual and audible warning prompts of other aircraft traffic in the area; lighting for night-vision goggles, which have been in use on Mayo One since 2006; and what is believed to be the first audio-video cockpit recorder in a civilian medical helicopter.

“Our goal is to elevate the standards for medical transport, both in terms of medical care and equipment and technology,” says Scott Zietlow, M.D., Mayo Clinic trauma surgeon and medical director of the Mayo One program. "With the introduction of the latest Mayo One aircraft, we have clearly achieved this by taking air medical transport services to a new and unprecedented level.

“The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board have recently been calling for air medical services to make safety improvements and we wanted to take that direction even further with this new medical aircraft.”

Building on 25 years of air care and transport expertise, Mayo Clinic requested many special features in the new Mayo One that help better serve air transport patients. The critical-care-equipped aircraft cabin, combined with the advanced avionics equipment installed for the pilots, provides a comprehensive, high-tech solution that meets the needs of critically ill patients.

State-of-the-Art Features

Features of the new helicopter include a state-of-the-art medical care area that supplies medical oxygen, suction and liquid oxygen. Mayo One is equipped with mounts for a medical ventilator; an infusion pump for delivering critical medicines to the circulatory system; a balloon pump which helps the heart pump blood through the body; a defibrillator; and two patient monitors, including a fetal monitor for specialized pediatric transports. The primary patient stretcher is equipped with a rack to allow the patient monitor, IV bags, and infusion pump to travel with the patient, eliminating the need to remove the equipment from the aircraft and carry it alongside. The interior has heated drawers for storing IV fluids and a customized storage area in the cabin to hold units of blood for transfusion, and other equipment.

The aircraft is IFR (instrument flight rules)-equipped, and can be flown in almost any weather, using only instruments for navigation when necessary. The flight displays are computerized “glass cockpit” flat screens. Two highly accurate global positioning system (GPS) receivers can determine the position of the aircraft within a couple of meters while moving, and two standard navigation receivers are integrated into the aircraft. The aircraft also is equipped with an autopilot to reduce pilot workload during critical phases of the flight.

Safety features include two collision avoidance systems — commonly called TAWS (terrain awareness warning systems) — which feed information to a large display and provide voice guidance to the pilots. The aircraft also has an air traffic information system alerting pilots to other aircraft in the vicinity. Radio transmissions and in-flight video from the helicopter are also captured with a specially-designed cockpit flight recorder, believed to be the first used in an emergency medical services helicopter. The cockpit is NVIS-compatible, allowing pilots to fly the aircraft while wearing night-vision goggles, proven to increase safety and reduce nighttime encounters with obstructions, according to the FAA. The aircraft also features onboard weather radar as well as a satellite data link for NEXRAD weather displays and aviation weather reports. The flight crew, including the medical personnel, can communicate with ground-based EMS units and dispatch centers with the multiple-band FM communications system.

Additionally, the aircraft has satellite-based telephone and tracking systems to allow Mayo Clinic’s dispatch center to track the aircraft’s location in real time.

Omniflight Helicopters, Inc. provides the pilots and maintenance technicians to support the Mayo-owned helicopter. The company has worked with Mayo Clinic since the Mayo One program began in 1984.


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