A Baby Needs Urgent Medical Care | Sharon Henry
We are witnessing history at St Helena Airport once again. A Dassault Falcon 20 jet aircraft has landed safely for the island’s first emergency medical evacuation by air. This comes just a day after British Conservative Peer, Lord Michael Ashcroft published an article citing St Helena Airport as ‘dangerous.’
St Helena Government stated today in a press release, that a baby ‘needing urgent medical care’ is to be taken to Cape Town.
Successful Landing On First Attempt
The recently certified airport has made this service possible and the infant should reach the Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town within hours, instead of five days by ship, as has been the case before now.
Gwyneth Howell, Head of Operations St Helena Airport told us, “We activated the evacuation last night (Thursday). They made a decision this morning. They flew through to Walvis (Namibia), then from Walvis through to the airport and landed successfully on runway 02 without even doing a missed approach.”
Africa’s Air Ambulance Service
The Dassault Falcon 20 jet aircraft which landed has been customised by South African air ambulance company, Guardian Air. The medical team on onboard are part of the ER24 Emergency Medical Services, also based in South Africa.
“It’s a fairly elderly aircraft,” said Gwyneth, “but quite reliable, especially for these long ranges. It’s quite suitable for this type of trip.”
The team on board brought their own medical equipment which was immediately taken to the hospital in Jamestown and will be used to support the patient during the flight out. This saves limited hospital equipment leaving the island with a patient.
ETOPS Calls For Overnight Stay
The Falcon 20 touched down from a southern approach at 13:53 pm (GMT). We noticed a slight ‘wobble’ just before landing. However, Gwyneth was told by the pilot, “the landing was perfect, the weather was perfect.”
As a safety precaution the aircraft won’t make the journey to Cape Town until tomorrow, Saturday, taking into consideration ETOPS and daylight flying amongst other things.
Saints’ Number One Reason For Air Access
Although certified, the official opening of St Helena Airport has been stalled because of wind shear problems. The Falcon 20 is therefore only the fourth fixed winged aircraft to land on the new runway since the very first airplane landed in September 2015.
Because of this delay, the RMS St Helena continues to be the only means of travel, to and from the island. The next call of the ship is scheduled for 28 June (3 weeks and 4 days time) as she is away on an extended one-off voyage to UK.
Many Saints will tell you their paramount reason for wanting an airport is to facilitate faster medical evacuations. This flight landing is therefore a defining moment in St Helena’s history.
“I’m very proud of the team,” said Gwyneth after today’s smooth operation. “All I can say to the Saints is well done, you’ve got an awesome airport and it’s gonna work.”
UPDATE 4 JUNE – FIRST AIR MEDEVAC FROM ST HELENA
St Helena’s first air medevac patient flew out of St Helena Airport on Saturday 4 June at 7.34am, with an estimated flight time of 3 hour and 58 minutes to Cape Town. Also on board was a doctor, paramedic, an engineer and three pilots. The flight, with baby and mother, arrived safely in Cape Town.
This is a momentous occasion for the island.