December 20, 2017 7:11 pm

Nova Scotia unveils new EHS LifeFlight helicopters

Wed, Dec 20: After months of delays, the province has finally unveiled the highly-anticipated additions to the EHS LifeFlight fleet. Jennifer Grudic has more.

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After months of pushed timelines, lengthy delays and a cancelled unveiling, two new medical helicopters able to land on hospital helipads are officially ready to serve Nova Scotians.

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“EHS LifeFlight is a vital part of Nova Scotia’s emergency medical services and provides critical care to people all over the Maritimes,” said Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey at a news conference on Wednesday.

“Time matters. These new helicopters can get patients to hospital faster and they have important equipment available to critical care teams when they need it most.”

READ MORE: Documents show conflicting reasons for cancelled LifeFlight unveiling

Due to regulations imposed by Transport Canada, LifeFlight helicopters have been unable to land on hospital helipads in the province since April 2016.

“We knew that would add time to missions,” said Colin Flynn, program manager EHS LifeFlight, referring to the added time needed to take patients from the helipad at Point Pleasant Park to the QEII or IWK.

“We’re very happy to have the two aircraft in service. It was a long process but a much-needed process to be able to land on the rooftop helipads again.”

EHS received the final go-ahead from Transport Canada at around 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 and the first mission was dispatched less than two hours later.

Sylvain Seguin, vice-president and chief operating officer for Canadian Helicopters Ltd. said he and his term worked closely with EHS LifeFlight staff to ensure the aircraft was well suited to meet their needs.

WATCH: Nova Scotia to lease two new LifeFlight helicopters

He said much of the delays were due to strict federal regulations and testing. For example, he said an unanticipated delay happened when burn tests had to be sent to special labs in the United States.

“As we were working with the committee and finding the best way to make these aircraft the best we could as a team, some of these changes that came up just caused a further delay on the certification,” said Sylvain.

“At the end of the day, the aircraft were physically able to go — we ended up waiting on documentation on paperwork on certification.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia LifeFlight helicopter replacement delayed: Leo Glavine

LifeFlight Tango and LifeFlight November are Sikorsky S-76 C+ aircraft specifically designed for use by Nova Scotia’s critical care teams.

They come equipped with some impressive new technology including a state-of-the-art navigation and communication systems that improve safety, including automatic voice alerts, surveillance, and real-time Environment Canada weather feed — the first of its kind in Canada

They also have backup life-saving equipment, a night vision goggle-compatible cockpit and a more powerful engine, making it easier for pilots to manoeuvre through tight spaces.

“If we land on the highway for instance, previously we could be limited with the power getting out of the sinkhole,” said captain Chris Heusler.

“We don’t have that problem anymore because we get this 22 per cent increase in performance coming out of the engines.”

The 15-year deal between the provincial government and Canadian Helicopters Ltd. is valued at $105 million.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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