Helicopters have been used widely throughout the world as emergency ambulances as first responder roles in traumatic care since World War II. They have been instrumental in improving response times and removal times to and from the scene, giving a more appropriate level of response, and providing access to more appropriate hospitals. Research shows that using helicopters to transport patients dramatically improves the patents probability of survival.
Additionally, helicopters are able to bring specialist care to the scene and transport patients to specialist hospitals, especially for major trauma cases. In many remote areas, air medical services can deliver non-emergency healthcare such as routine doctor appointments.
In the case of natural disasters, such as forest fires, helicopters are also the reigning champions.
The ability of helicopters to drop a fire retardant, foam or water to suppress wildfires is the first line of defence and an essential firefighting tool. A helicopters speed, mobility and delivery capability make helicopters an essential tool for firefighters on the ground.
A helicopter’s true value is the capability to rapidly deliver water from nearby sources to the most critical areas as quickly as possible. Traditional fixed-wing aircraft are able to deliver more water or other retardant, however they lack the ability to be precise with their delivery than a helicopter. They also require a runway or airfield to reload. Therefore, if a fire isn’t located near an airfield, time between turns on a fixed-wing can be excessive.
The use of helicopters not only allows teams to reach the scene more quickly, but they also offer absolute precision during an operation, as the helicopter’s speed and position can easily be adapted to the fire at hand.
While known for their ability to deliver water and transporting people to and from fires, helicopters are vital in the support of various aerial work operations. Helicopters are widely used for aerial reconnaissance, reporting fires, mapping fires, directing other aerial firefighting assets to hotspots and fires, delivering equipment to remote areas, and providing hoisting, medevac and situation monitoring capabilities to ensure the safety of people involved in firefighting efforts.
The helicopter’s role in firefighting has become increasingly important over the last three decades and continues to evolve as technology has changed. Helicopters offer a unique point of attack capability and quick turnaround that a fixed wing airplane cannot provide. The helicopters ability to use water sources close to the fire such as ponds, streams allows helicopters quick turns and more on station time than fixed-wing aircraft, as well as the ability to drop very accurately on any hot spot that needs attention in a fire. They have the speed and ability to rise above fire lines and attack the fire at any angle. Trucks often have to fall back due to fire advancement, while helicopters do not have this problem.
These photos are from a Hunter Helicopters family day adventure