The powerful twin-engine Airbus Helicopters H135 deftly navigated the heat and high altitude of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains after it was put into service last summer.
California Shock Trauma and Rescue (CALSTAR), the first U.S. air medical transport service to operate the H135, reports the aircraft has exceeded expectations.
Based in Sacramento, Calif., CALSTAR took delivery of two H135s in June and began operating the aircraft in air medical missions in July.
“This is a powerful aircraft that responds extremely well to our unique hot and high operating environment,” said Lynn Malmstrom, President, and CEO of CALSTAR. “It performed exactly as advertised, and we could not be more pleased.”
CALSTAR selected the H135 in 2015 following a fly-off with competing models that included tests in late summer heat and high altitude conditions. CALSTAR flies many of its critical patient transports in the Sierra Nevada and nearby foothills, responding to injured hikers, boaters, and cyclists in the summer and skiers in the winter.
CALSTAR’s Chief Operations Officer Tad Henderson said flight crews are impressed with the H135’s strength and safety features, including the Garmin GTN 750 fully integrated navigation, communication, and GPS avionics system. This system allows enhanced operation under instrument flight rules, improving safety margins at night or in hazardous weather and terrain.
“The technological advancements made in the H135 in a short time are incredible. These aircraft practically fly themselves,” Henderson said. “When you are operating in an environment as diverse as ours, it’s reassuring to know you have a premier aircraft.”
The new H135s replaced CALSTAR’s remaining four legacy B0105LS helicopters, completing a fleet modernization plan launched in 2012. CALSTAR also operates eight EC135s, the model’s previous version, that it ordered in 2012.
The H135 is the industry reference for light twin-engine helicopters due to its performance, safety features, operating efficiency and cabin flexibility. Equipped with Pratt & Whitney PW206B3 turbine engines and a new, larger main rotor, the H135 provides 440 pounds of greater payload capacity in hot-and-high conditions. It also has improved performance and payload at lower altitudes.
CALSTAR’s longstanding relationship with Airbus Helicopters Inc. made the decision to acquire the H135 simple, Malmstrom said. “Taking a risk on a new platform might be perceived as a risk to some, but our long and trusted relationship with Airbus Helicopters made it easy to acquire another Airbus product,” he said. “We continue to be incredibly happy with the H135.”
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