Norway will declare operational capability in early 2011 with a new suite of medical evacuation equipment that will enable a Scandinavian Airlines Boeing 737-700 commercial airliner to be rapidly reconfigured for casualty evacuation duties.
A first demonstration of the new installation was made at Oslo's Gardermoen airport in late September, following the completion of work by prime contractor Marshall Aerospace.
"The role change from a full airline passenger configuration to any of the medevac configurations takes well under 4h, as does return to the normal passenger configuration," the UK company says.
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SAS will guarantee one adapted 737-700 within 24h to support emergency missions
An adapted 737 will be able to carry up to 24 NATO-standard stretchers, including 16 used to provide patients with intensive care support. Norway is also acquiring related equipment such as heart rate monitors, oxygen supplies and defibrillators for use with the interior modification kit. A typical configuration could include 10 stretchers and 21 seated patients, says Marshall.
© Marshall Aerospace
SAS took one of its 737-700s out of airline service for one week to support recently concluded trial installation work, which also involved transferring a mock casualty from a Royal Norwegian Air Force Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transport.
"This has significantly strengthened the armed forces' medical evacuation capacity. This is not only important for our troops in Afghanistan, it's a good example of how the military can contribute to civilian society," says defence minister Grete Faremo. "This valuable resource may also be used in the event of major accidents and natural disasters all over the world."
SAS will guarantee the availability of one modified aircraft within a 24h notice period once the medical evacuation system becomes operational, and two aircraft within 36h. The airline will provide the aircrews required to support emergency taskings, with the Norwegian military to provide medical personnel.
Further exercises are due to take place with the new equipment in December, with operational capability to be declared early next year. The project also involves medevac specialist Nodin Aviation, which has previously valued the deal at around €2 million ($2.7 million).
Marshall says that while the medical evacuation equipment has so far only been certificated for use with the 737 by the European Aviation Safety Agency, it is "directly transferable to other airliner types". Such a system could have "significant international appeal", believes engineering director Brian Phillipson.