First Medical Evacuation Flight Lands on St Helena

The Dassault Falcon 20, landing from the southern approach (runway 02) at St Helena Airport.

The Dassault Falcon 20, landing from the southern approach (runway 02) at St Helena Airport.

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.

The first air medevac flight arriving at St Helena Airport, a Guardian Air, Dassault Falcon 20.

The first air medevac flight arriving at St Helena Airport, a Guardian Air, Dassault Falcon 20.

Touching down at 13:53 on Friday 3 June, 2016, a Guardian Air, Dassault Falcon 20, air ambulance arrives at St Helena Island becoming the very first air medevac flight to land. On board is a medical team from South African, ER24, Emergency Medical Services. The aircraft landed from the southern approach, (runway 02) as wind shear which affects the northern approach continues to be investigated.

Touching down at 13:53 on Friday 3 June, 2016, a Guardian Air, Dassault Falcon 20, air ambulance arrives at St Helena Island becoming the very first air medevac flight to land. On board is a medical team from South African, ER24, Emergency Medical Services. The aircraft landed from the southern approach, (runway 02) as wind shear which affects the northern approach continues to be investigated.

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 Guardian Air, Dassault Falcon 20, air ambulance met by the St Helena Airport ambulance ready to transport the medevac team from ER24 to the Jamestown hospital.

The Guardian Air, Dassault Falcon 20, air ambulance met by the St Helena Airport ambulance ready to transport the medevac team from ER24 to the Jamestown hospital.

Head of Operations St Helena Airport, Gwyneth Howell.

Head of Operations St Helena Airport, Gwyneth Howell.

ER24 medical team on board, the St Helena Airport ambulance begins the journey from the airport to the Jamestown hospital, driving through the rocky landscape of Prosperous Bay Plain.

ER24 medical team on board, the St Helena Airport ambulance begins the journey from the airport to the Jamestown hospital, driving through the rocky landscape of Prosperous Bay Plain.

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.

ER24 medical team on board, the St Helena Airport ambulance begins the journey from the airport to the Jamestown hospital, driving through the rocky landscape of Prosperous Bay Plain.

ER24 medical team on board, the St Helena Airport ambulance begins the journey from the airport to the Jamestown hospital, driving through the rocky landscape of Prosperous Bay Plain.

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.”

The Guardian Air, Dassault Falcon 20, air ambulance taxiing back along the runway after a successful landing. The St Helena Airport, DVOR radar is visible in the foreground.

The Guardian Air, Dassault Falcon 20, air ambulance taxiing back along the runway after a successful landing. The St Helena Airport, DVOR navigation aid is visible in the foreground.

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.

The next morning, 6.30am, refuelling the Falcon in preparation for the flight back to Cape Town. A typical, overcast morning for this time of year on St Helena.

The next morning, 6.30am, refuelling the Falcon in preparation for the flight back to Cape Town. A typical, overcast morning for this time of year on St Helena.

Escorted by police, the ambulance arriving at the airport with medevac patient inside.

Escorted by police, the ambulance arriving at the airport with medevac patient inside.

07:15. The emergency teams complete the loading of medevac patients onto the air ambulance.

07:15. The emergency teams complete the loading of medevac patient onto the air ambulance.

07:34. Beneath the bulk of King & Queen Rock and Prosperous Bay House on St Helena, the Guardian Air, Falcon 20, accelerates along the runway during take off.

07:34. Beneath the bulk of King & Queen Rock and Prosperous Bay House on St Helena, the Guardian Air, Falcon 20, accelerates along the runway during take off.

07:34, 4 June 2016. History is made as the very first medical evacuation by air from St Helena, lifts off from the new airport on Prosperous Bay Plain. The Dassault Falcon 20, operated by Guardian Air, begins the flight to Cape Town, estimated to take 3hr 58mins, much faster than the previous 5 day voyage by ship for all medevacs from St Helena. On board, a mother and a newborn baby needing specialist care.

07:34, 4 June 2016. History is made as the very first medical evacuation by air from St Helena, lifts off from the new airport on Prosperous Bay Plain. The Dassault Falcon 20, operated by Guardian Air, begins the flight to Cape Town, estimated to take 3hr 58mins, much faster than the previous 5 day voyage by ship for all medevacs from St Helena. On board, a mother and a newborn baby needing specialist care.

The first ever medevac by air from St Helena takes off into an overcast morning.

The first ever medevac by air from St Helena takes off into an overcast morning.

36 thoughts on “First Medical Evacuation Flight Lands on St Helena

  1. It is a real shame that the British press is being so negative about the airport and its cost, and they certainly haven’t tempered that by even mentioning the successful medevac. Even if the type of aircraft and flights are more restricted than hoped, the airport has to be a plus for the islanders, and as a British tax-payer is an investment that I do not begrudge in the slightest.

    On Tuesday, on my way home from work, I took a detour to see RMS St Helena on the Thames. I would like to think that there will be the opportunity to visit the St Helena herself some day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This successful medevac really is a shining beacon amongst all the negative press St Helena Airport has been getting of late. We’ll just have to be patient now with finger crossed for commercial flight success. Hope you managed to see the RMS and most especially come to see St Helena some day 🙂

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  2. Great coverage of a real emergency, medical emergencies was just one (and perhaps the most important of all) the reasons why this Airport was built in first please. Your reporting negates some of the appalling media coverage been played out in UK but as always they are not reporting all the facts. Well done to you both once more for doing just that and in a balance way, the British Press and other media could learn a thing or two from you both when it comes to reporting. All best Lawson

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your kind words Lawson. This event really does symbolise one of the key reasons for the airport – onwards and upwards for here…hopefully. 🙂

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  3. Only just reading this now…could not bring myself to make a comment on the situation…however i feel it is important that i say this to recover properly myself. I say this deep emotions that I hope all is going well so far with the baby and that the mother and father including the rest of the family are coping ok and that they come back with their little bundle of joy.
    I hope as well that the mother is recovering from her nasty incident and is feeeling much better. Hope to see you all soon!:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s really sobering to read your words Adele, thanks so much for giving us further perspective. We wish you, Steve and your family well in your recovery.

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  4. Great report! Thanks for sharing. Sadly I was on the RMS trip to Capetown in January when the medivac could not land yet and that trip had another outcome. Reading this with tears in my eyes. Hope baby and mom are doing well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Apologies I do not know who this is but that situation involved my son and husband and I thank you for all the support that you gave him. Adele Plato

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the great content and photos! Awesome to know that the Saints now have better access to emergency health care. Love from Cape Town! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Wendy luckily the plane landed in good weather – great for photos and wind shear! And yes all best wishes to baby and family for good health.

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  6. Great to see the airport used for a medevac – let’s hope the little one is OK.

    Just to be pedantic, the DVOR isn’t a “radar” – it’s a sort of beacon that transmits a signal that aircraft can use to determine the bearing to or from the station. The distance is given by a co-sited bit of kit called the Distance Measuring Equipment (DME). So with the VOR and DME the pilot can tell where the aircraft is in relation to the airport. These are 2 of the “navaids” at St Helena, which does not have a radar according to the published info about the airport.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi, Darrin and Sharon. What a blessing you are to St Helena and to me, being so many miles away in Louisiana, to read your posts, especially ones of critical importance. I will be praying for the child’s health and safety. Amelia sends best wishes. She’s showing at the “Treasures of Pointe Coupee” art show in New Roads again. The reception was last night. Going to and fro we passed the museum on False River where we met last year. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Joette really good to hear from you and Amelia. Yes this story on St Helena is has great significance and all thoughts are with the baby and family. Good luck to Amelia with her painting – she’s has such promising young talent. 🙂

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      • Thanks for keeping us up todate. I have since heard baby Eli is doing well. Thank God.
        A brilliant job Daren and Sharon.

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  8. The coverage you published of this historic event is as professional as any I have seen anywhere. Your work is second to none! This airport will be a success with the teams we have in place working together to address the challenges that we face on Saint Helena. I hope all goes well for the young patient. Keep up the outstanding work Darrin & Sharon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow thanks for the lovely words Steve! We also believe the airport will be a success it’s just a matter of playing the waiting game for a good outcome. And actually in the meantime it’s already done that with our first medevac. Incredible!

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  9. Excellent reporting Sharon. Great to read your article, especially in light of recent doom and gloom reports that have surfaced in the media.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Another great story and coverage Darrin I hope the UK media is collecting the facts about how important the St Helena Airport is to us, one day Lord Ashcroft will get his turn to be on this blog when he lands at HLE to collect another factual St Helena story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks blogmaster it truly is amazing to see the main reason Saints wanting an airport come into fruition. Oh and we would gladly have Lord Ashcroft on this blog! 🙂

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    • Thanks Jean it does give you chills just knowing we have air medevac capability on the island now. All prayers and thoughts are now with the baby and family.

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