RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Airmen from the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron tested their aeromedical evacuation capabilities on a new airframe Sept. 3.
The civilian Gulfstream III, or G3, provides the range and speed needed to reach different parts of Africa and Eurasia in a day, something the C-21 and some of the smaller aircraft assigned here can't achieve without stopping to refuel.
The time involved in refueling may sound like a minor issue, but when one thinks of the wellbeing of a patient who is being transported, every second counts.
"It's important for us to minimize the off- and on-loading of ... patients," said Senior Airman Gabriela Perez, 86th AES aeromedical evacuation technician. "Each takeoff and landing places stress on patients, and any delays in a flight could hinder a patient's care."
In most cases when an aircraft stops to refuel passengers must be offloaded; if there are patients onboard that's valuable time being lost.
The C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules are the preferred aircraft used for aeromedical evacuation due to their range, size and patient capacity.
According to Lt. Col. Paul Yenter, chief of air evacuation control team with the 603rd Air and Space Operations Center, if this concept works it could save a lot of time and money for the Air Force and it will also provide the European and Africa commands a new capability and an availability to aircraft they have not had access to in the past.
With the unique mission in Africa the number and severity of patients being transported is rare, and in most cases due to injury or illness that cannot be handled by the limited care there.
Yenter said for this reason they have been working on increasing their capabilities.
"This is something that has been in the planning phase for more than a year," he said. "Once the waivers to fly on the G3 were complete we only had to ensure we had proper training, and then we just wait for the right patients."
Over the course of the last few months the AES Airmen have been conducting specialized training to prepare for this flight. They have worked long hours developing checklists on how they would handle patients on this aircraft.
Yenter said many of the checklists created were based on the C-20, a similar make and model to the G3. When configured, these aircraft will be able to carry eight ambulatory patients, or if needed about three critical-care patients.
Within a few days of approving procedures the squadron received word of two ambulatory patients in Africa that could not be transported home by commercial means.
A nine-person crew, five aeromedical personnel and four pilots, flew a one-day mission to pick up these two patients, putting their training into action.
"I'm very confident with the equipment and the patient care we provide during aeromedical missions," said Col. Meg Walsh, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron commander. "The only thing we have been missing is the platform available for movement, bringing a new capability to our squadron."
The concept of aeromedical evacuation is more than 100 years old and the theory behind it was to provide timely, efficient movement of patients and en route care. This type of evacuation has been used extensively throughout all major wars since World War II and saved countless lives.