As part of the process to eventually resume night landings in remote areas, the province’s air ambulance service is testing new lighting at a helipad in Capreol, located north of Sudbury.
The CEO for ORNGE won’t say exactly when, but night landings at 73 remote helipads could resume in the near future.
Andrew McCallum said the May 30 crash of an ORNGE helicopter at night near Moosonee crystallized the need for better lighting and more pilot training.
No exact cause has been determined for the crash that killed four people, including Captain Don Filliter of Sudbury. The crash is still under investigation by the Transportation Safety Board.
However, the need for better training and lights had been identified months before, McCallum said.
He said the old system required pilots to train spot-lights on reflective cones as they came in, and new solar lights may be the answer.
“They can be seen from five miles back,” he said. “So [it’s] very helpful to the pilots, a major reduction in their workload.”
Hopeful for resolution
As for the remote areas in the province still without night-time helicopter service, McCallum said he recalls only a few emergency calls that were handled by ground transportation.
“There have been a few cases where we haven’t been able to send a helicopter,” he said. “But in every case, an alternate means [such as] land transportation has been used. So to my knowledge, there is no patient who hasn’t been transported.”
The clerk for Cockburn Island Township on Manitoulin Island said his community is one affected by the ban.
Brent St. Denis said there haven’t been emergencies so far, but he’d be more comfortable if ORNGE helicopters were available at night.
“I am actually hoping that before the winter sets in that we’ll have it resolved either with the confirmation that our equipment is satisfactory or some other solution,” he said.
He said there haven’t been any emergencies requiring the helicopter at night since the ban went into effect.