PHOENIX, Ariz., (May 26, 2014) - Civilian use of helicopters for emergency medical services (EMS) seems like a standard service today in the U.S. and many other countries. Use of helicopters as air ambulances is something that took a while to develop however. The first formal program to test of helicopters for EMS for civilian use started 45 years ago today (May 26, 1969) with Arizona Helicopters Inc., now known as Air Services Int’l., LLC.
In the 1960’s helicopters became a critical tool for the United States during the Vietnam War. Helicopters were so important to the war effort that helicopters like the Bell Helicopter UH-1 “Huey” (which is still widely used today) is still seen as a symbol of the conflict.
One of the critical missions for helicopters during the war, especially the UH-1, was providing air ambulance services. Transporting wounded soldiers to medical facilities quickly proved to be a significant factor in reducing fatalities.
With the use of helicopters as air ambulances proving successful with the war effort, interest grew stateside in testing helicopters for medevac services in a civilian setting. In the spring of 1969 a unique partnership developed to test the usefulness of helicopters for civilian services.
Winning a $304,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation the Arizona Highway Patrol in cooperation with the Arizona State University and Arizona Helicopters Inc. (now Air Services Int’l., LLC) ran an experiment to test the use of helicopters for EMS and law enforcement missions. The program was named “Air Medical Evacuation Services” or “AMES”. The Arizona Highway Patrol provided six officers while Arizona Helicopters provided five pilots and two Rolls-Royce (Allison) 250-C18 powered Fairchild Hiller FH-1100 helicopters.
AMES was initially set to run as a six month trial, starting on Memorial Day in 1969 and running through October 31st of the same year. The program was extended an additional three months to see how helicopters worked for EMS and law enforcement during winter months. During the program helicopters and crews were available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The AMES program proved very successful over its nine months of operations. AMES served as a catalyst to help develop a whole new sector of parapubic services for both civilian, government, and law enforcement helicopter operators.
Jerry Foster, Chief Pilot of Arizona Helicopters at the time of the AMES program recently wrote a book that includes a chapter on the AMES program. It is available on Amazon.com (click here).
SKY12.tv blog (Click here) also has a synopsis of the Mr. Foster’s chapter on the AMES program.
Air Services Int’l. (ASI) is no longer a helicopter operator, but it does continue to provide MRO and other services for Rolls-Royce M250 engines, many of which power helicopters used for EMS services today. You can read more about ASI’s services for M250 engines (click here) or contact us (click here) for more information.