AirCare is one of the few medical helicopter programs in the country that is authorized to conduct flights using instrument flight rules (IFR) and procedures operating in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). This capability allows AirCare crews to serve communities when weather conditions prevent patient flights. No other helicopter air ambulance (HAA) programs in Mississippi are certified for IFR operations.
IFR offers an added margin of safety for all flight operations. It gives crews options to continue flight when un-forecasted weather is encountered. Pre-flight weather decisions can be made with greater certainty providing more dependable service to the community and specifically patients in need of air transport. Flight safety is further enhanced with radar contact and communication with Air Traffic Control (ATC) for additional weather and air traffic advisories.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates minimum weather conditions for aircraft operated in the United States. Even with the enhanced capabilities that IFR allows, some weather conditions, such as thunderstorms, are too hazardous and regulations do not permit flight operations.
In recent years, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and FAA have recommended and issued more restrictive weather, equipment, and training requirements to promote safety in the HAA industry. Improvements in technology and regulations will continue to change the way HAA flights are conducted in the coming years. AirCare helicopters already incorporate cutting edge technologies such as state-of-the-art flight tracking, flight data monitoring and other industry-leading best practices.
Using IFR capability, crews can launch from an AirCare base and conduct instrument approach procedures (IAPs) to most Mississippi airports. Many flights can be completed using a combination of Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and IFR to expedite the response and patient transport. While airports have varying minimum weather requirements, some locations allow for operations as low as ¼ mile visibility.
Pilots at AirCare are professionals and come to the program with years of experience. Annual aircraft flight training and evaluations are conducted in the aircraft using Night Vision Goggles (NVG) and IFR procedures. Pilots also attend annual full-motion flight simulator training at Flight Safety International Training Centers annually. The simulator allows flight instructors to provide realistic rigorous scenarios and emergency situations that are impractical to be safely conducted in the aircraft.
AirCare's fleet consists of an Airbus EC-145 helicopter and three Airbus EC-135 P2+ helicopters.
All four airframes are IFR certified and equipped for Single-Pilot IFR operations.
Onboard avionics include:
Every system has a back-up, and some of the avionics and flight instruments have two back-ups.