Bell Helicopter sees a long-term opportunity for emergency medical services (EMS) helicopters in Singapore, a wealthy country that presently lacks this capability.
Sameer Rehman, Bell’s Asia-Pacific managing director, believes that the city’s impressive skyscrapers offer ample points for the development of helipads capable of handling EMS rotorcraft.
While Singapore’s excellent hospitals are within easy driving distance from virtually anywhere on the island, traffic congestion can be an issue.
“Singapore is definitely challenged on space, and landing on the side of a highway here is impractical, but look at the infrastructure,” says Rehman. “We have some of the tallest buildings in the world, and we have to take advantage of these favorable landing sites - as any advanced country should.”
Helicopter EMS operations are not unknown in Singapore. The Republic of Singapore Air Force periodically uses its Airbus Helicopters AS332 Super Pumas to ferry injured military personnel from Singapore’s outlying islands to hospitals, some of which have open spaces that can be used for helicopters.
Nonetheless, Singapore’s airspace is tightly controlled. Helicopters operating from Seletar Airport, for example, must file a flight plan. When they take off and land, they are obligated to fly down the runway to simulate the movement of a fixed-wing aircraft. When landing, the must simulate a conventional fixed-wing landing approach.
“What we need the government to start thinking about is how to develop heliports and helipads on building safely,” says Rehman. “So, when you have somebody that needs critical care, and cannot be lifted out of their bed and wait in traffic, they can go to a local hospital directly from their building.”
Rehman made the remarks in a broader discussion about Bell in the region prior to the Singapore air show.
“EMS requires support from various different areas,” he says. “It’s not only getting airspace or access to aircraft, or the ability to takeoff without clearance. How do you educate the public to show this service is available? How do educate the public that when an aircraft lands it is there on a mission, and not as an attraction? That process takes time. It’s an infrastructure challenge, it’s a technical challenge, and also a cultural challenge.”