Nova Scotia

Province inks $105M deal for 2 air ambulance helicopters

The two air ambulance helicopters will be able to land on provincial hospital helipads, says Health Minister Leo Glavine.

Helicopters expected to be in service by Aug. 1

Nova Scotia has a $105-million deal with Canadian Helicopters Ltd. for two air ambulances to replace the current EHS LifeFlight helicopter. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Nova Scotia will have two new air ambulance helicopters by August, Health Minister Leo Glavine said Thursday.

The province has reached a $105-million agreement with Canadian Helicopters Ltd. for two Sikorsky S-76C+ helicopters that will replace the single Sikorsky S-76A helicopter operated by Emergency Health Services. 

"We're looking at 10-year-old [helicopters], which is actually a very limited part of their lifespan," Glavine said.

The helicopters "exceed the requirements of Transport Canada" and will be able to land on hospital helipads, he said.

More reliable aircraft

Last spring, the federal transport regulator yanked the current helicopter's permit to land on the helipads, forcing it to use the parking lot at Point Pleasant Park.

Emergency Health Services director Larry Crewson said the $105-million lease will cover the costs of running the helicopters for 15 years, including maintenance.

Health Minister Leo Glavine and Emergency Health Services director Larry Crewson speak to reporters Thursday about air ambulances acquired by the province.

"We're going from 70 per cent reliability to 98 per cent reliability," he said. "The intent is there will always have one available for flight."

The aircraft are safer and will have a faster response time, and greater range, he said. The helicopters also have more powerful engines and will be able to fly in a greater variety of weather.

Interiors to be revamped for medical missions

They will be undergoing alterations soon, Crewson said.

"That's what is going to take the time, because they have to build that medical interior, meet all the Transport Canada requirements and it will have to be inspected during the building process."

He said air ambulance crews are "very anxious" to  begin using the new aircraft.

Having to transport patients to Point Pleasant Park to meet the current helicopter can take an additional 15 minutes, which can seem like a lifetime when every moment counts.

"For critical care patients ... that can make all the difference in the world," said Crewson.