Message 06.08.2020

COVID-19 – Pilatus Aircraft in Action to Combat the Pandemic

What do Jetfly, the Irish Air Corps, the RFDS, AMREF, Airmedic and Panorama Aviation all have in common? Like many other organisations, they all rallied to help combat COVID-19. In Europe, Australia, Africa and America – Pilatus Aircraft were put to good use around the world. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd

With their large cargo door and ability to operate on rough field strips and very short runways, the PC-12 and PC-24 proved perfect for pandemic-related missions, including getting passengers as close as possible to their destination, quickly and easily. In many cases, seats were removed to maximise the space available for medical supplies. The corona crisis certainly highlighted the versatility and response capacity for which both aircraft are well known.

Free flights by Jetfly

Jetfly made part of its PC-12 fleet available free of charge to medical personnel in Europe. Working together with the “Aviation Sans Frontières” association in France, Jetfly appealed to its customer base to donate flight time to save lives. “By early April, having completed all our repatriation flights for our customers, we had a great deal of free capacity and no way of continuing with our usual operations as the borders were closed. So we contacted our co-owners to ask if they would be prepared to donate some of their flight time to transport medical personnel, supplies and equipment”, explains Jonathan Clough, Director of Jetfly UK.

The appeal met with great support and very generous donations, resulting in a total of over 200 flight hours. The aim was to support personnel working to save lives by flying them to where they were urgently needed by the safest, fastest means. Cédric Lescop, CEO of Jetfly, adds: “We’re proud that the solidarity of our clients allowed us to help the regions which required support in terms of transport for medical personnel and equipment such as ventilators, masks, gloves, protective clothing and disinfectants.”

Irish Air Corps PC-12 flies tests to Germany

The Irish Air Corps added a new PC-12 NG to its fleet in early April. It was used throughout May to provide valuable support against covid-19 in Ireland. The Air Corps and the health authorities worked together during the pandemic. 

In mid-April, after an increase in covid-19 cases was noted in residential care facilities across Ireland, testing of residents and personnel was accelerated. The services of a laboratory in Munich, Germany were used to evaluate the test results and clear the backlog of tests carried out over the past month. The 104th Squadron assisted in the overall effort by providing logistics flights – every week in May they transported up to 50,000 samples to this lab.

RFDS on the front line

The pandemic also severely affected flight operations for most Pilatus customers in Australia, with restrictions on movement to help slow the curve. The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) remained extremely busy during this period. As of mid-May 2020, 358 confirmed or suspected cases had been transported, with 42 percent travelling by air. The sections were also involved in testing, transporting pathology samples, medical personnel and medical supplies. Proven telehealth services provide 24/7 assistance. With electronic communication technologies, it is now easy to contact, assess and monitor patients over long distances.

RFDS Western Operations has been on the front line of the pandemic since the very beginning, helping to transport confirmed or suspected covid-19 patients. The organisation has increased front line staffing levels and implemented an evolving best practice covid-19 Clinical Guideline for infection control, aircraft decontamination and intubation protocols. Both RFDS Western and Central Operations have been extremely quick to adapt and provide solutions to ensure the best outcome in Australia’s fight against the virus.

AMREF flies with new isolation chambers

AMREF Flying Doctors operate a fleet of diverse aircraft chosen for their capacity to provide a comprehensive programme of medical care and evacuation in East Africa. AMREF Flying Doctors have assisted the Kenyan government since covid-19 first broke out in Kenya, ensuring logistical support and specialist aid are available whenever needed. Missions include the transportation of critical aid supplies and personnel.

As covid-19 continued to spread through Africa, there was a sharp increase in demand for transportation of infected patients. The Kenyan Ministry of Health responded by providing AMREF Flying Doctors with two new portable isolation units to allow safe aerial transport of patients. AMREF put the stretchers into operation in mid-May – and they have more than proved their value already. “These isolation units have allowed us to expand our medevac capacity and help the nation by transporting patients who have tested positive”, explains Medical Director Dr. Joseph Lelo.

Airmedic and Panorama Aviation lend a hand in Canada

Meanwhile, in Canada, Airmedic assisted by transporting patients with covid-19 symptoms – essentially carrying out transfer flights by PC-12 from northern locations in Quebec to specialist hospitals. Airmedic put its expertise to good use by combining an airlock disinfection system and a unique air-circulation system to eliminate contamination risks and ensure effective disinfection of both aircraft, allowing medical personnel and patients to travel protected and in safety.

In the midst of the pandemic Panorama Aviation transported thousands of kilogrammes of freight in the form of food and aid supplies to isolated locations on the Lower North Shore of Quebec. There are no roads to link these communities with the rest of civilisation – everything has to be brought in by air or sea. On one particular day, Panorama Aviation completed no fewer than 15 flights with the PC-12. “It was a personal and company record, if I remember rightly. 15 take-offs and 15 landings! And we had to open that huge cargo door 15 times, too, to load and unload our cargo of food and aid supplies. We only managed it because the PC-12 is such a versatile aircraft, it proved its value to Panorama Aviation many times over during the pandemic”, said Pilot Charles Morisette.