An air ambulance, also known as a Medevac, is an aircraft used to quickly pick up a seriously injured person and transport them to a medical facility for treatment. Air ambulances are commonly used to reach locations that a regular ambulance cannot get to or cannot get to quickly, such as remote locations, mountaintops, or ships at sea. Just like an automobile ambulance, the aircraft is fitted with medical equipment to help stabilize the patient until the air ambulance can get them to a proper medical facility or hospital.
Like a lot of our modern technology, air ambulances were first used by the military. Airplanes were first used to transport patients to hospitals, and eventually, air ambulance corps were formed in many countries’ militaries. During the Korean War, helicopters were used to rush wounded soldiers from the battlefield or to transport them from a first aid center to a more advanced naval hospital ship.
Later, during the Vietnam conflict, U.S. researchers found that soldiers wounded in combat and flown to a medical facility had a better survival rate than wounded automobile drivers on the California freeway. This led to the development of civilian air ambulances, serving local areas or regions that undergo devastating disasters.
Today, medical air ambulances can be run by several organizations depending on the region in which they are located. There are federally run aircraft, such as those operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, that is able to rescue and fly injured or stranded sailors from the ocean or ships in distress. The Coast Guard even has rescue swimmers that jump from hovering helicopters to rescue people who have fallen overboard.
Other organizations that run air ambulances include private companies that offer to fund an aircraft for emergency transportation services, or city-run and funded aircraft that work with ambulances or emergency medical crews. In some areas that cannot afford to run an air ambulance for that sole purpose, they may use a multirole aircraft that can be used for police work when it is needed or as an air ambulance when an emergency arises.
Air ambulances come in all different types of aircraft, from light, single-engine airplanes to large helicopters, and can reach locations that a regular medical crew may not be able to get to. They can pick up stranded people or rush wounded soldiers to a medical center. In essence, air ambulances help to save lives.