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De Beers and Netcare 911 to provide emergency helicopter service in South Africa
Mr. Nicky Oppenheimer has offered his AgustaWestland 139 helicopter for this
By: Diamond World News Service
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Jul 1 2011 3:08PM
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Reference: 6117  

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AW 139
AW 139
De Beers and Netcare 911 have initiated a joint effort for providing South Africans in the remotest regions of the country with access to an emergency helicopter service. And the helicopter to be used for this will be Mr. Nicky Oppenheimer’s AgustaWestland 139.

The idea is the brain child of Mr. Nicky Oppenheimer - Chairman of De Beers and Dr Anchen Laubscher, Medical Director of Netcare 911. The idea arose when Nicky Oppenheimer used his AgustaWestland 139 helicopter to evacuate a seriously injured woman from a farm in Limpopo province. It was during this flight that Dr Laubscher, who served on this mission, noted the considerable capabilities of the AgustaWestland helicopter.

Mr. Oppenheimer said, “We thought that a long-range service, which could evacuate patients from remote areas would make a tangible difference when it comes to saving lives.” “We agreed to develop such a service jointly using the AW 139 and the medical expertise of Netcare 911”, he added. He also had the aircraft reconfigured to transport three patients and a medical team of eight.

The project was launched in Johannesburg recently. Dr Laubscher observes that the long ranged AgustaWestland 139, ability to fly using its instruments at night and in inclement weather enhances the capabilities of the Netcare 911 helicopter emergency service (HEMS), to overcome the challenges of South Africa –long distances, bad weather and difficult landing conditions.

Although, Captain de Wet, one of the pilots on the aircraft said, that “unlike the helicopters Netcare 911 currently employ, the AW 139 will not be a first response helicopter and takes around two hours to be prepared. Hence for situations that require very fast response will be attended by other smaller, more nimble Netcare 911 EMS helicopters, which are presently in service offering a day and night in Gauteng and a daytime service only in KwaZulu-Natal. However, the AW 139 fills the vital gap, which exists for medical evacuations from more remote regions or where bad weather conditions are making patient recovery by any other means impractical.

Laubscher added that Mr. Oppenheimer “had the aircraft equipped with a state of the art three stretcher pod at considerable personal expense making it the only helicopter of its kind in the country.” “The world class service that we are providing is available to all South Africans who can access it via the Netcare 911 Call Centre on 082 911,” she notes.

The Civil Aviation Authority has approved the project after the helicopter, pilots and crew met with stringent aviation and safety criteria. Six pilots of Anglo American Aviation have been trained to pilot the helicopter during medical operations. Netcare 911 HEMS doctors and paramedics will provide medical assistance on flight.

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