Ornge air ambulance allowed in U.S. air space

Ontario's air ambulance service, Ornge, now has U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly its helicopters in U.S. airspace.

Windsor hospital CEO says move benefits Ontario residents ill, injured in U.S.

Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj said the move also makes it easier for Ontario residents injured or ill in the U.S. to return home once stabilized. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

Ontario's air ambulance service, Ornge, now has U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly its helicopters in U.S. airspace.

The fleet can now transport patients to or from any U.S. destination.

"While helicopter patient transports to the U.S. are rare, this offers one more option to ensure patients receive the care they need," said Ron McKerlie, Interim CEO of Ornge.

Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj said the move also makes it easier for Ontario residents injured or ill in the U.S. to return home once stabilized.

Musyj said "it strips a level of bureaucracy from the process" because U.S. EMS staff are no longer needed in the transfer process.

"What this now allows Ornge to do, without having to work with U.S. agencies, is be directly dispatched to, say, a Florida hospital, pick up the Ontario resident and bring them back to Windsor. That’s where I see this working," Musyj said.

Musyj said his hospital has, on average, four Windsor patients transferred back home from the U.S. each year.

He said air transfers from Canada to the U.S. are much more rare, especially in a border town like Windsor, which is right across from Detroit.

Land transfers used in border town

He said hundreds of patients are transferred by land ambulance from Windsor to Detroit each year.

"For Windsor, land ambulance transportation is the quickest and easiest way to transport a patient," Musyj said. "That's one of the very positive things about living in Windsor is having next to us some of the finest tertiary centres next to us, 15 minutes away."

Earlier this year, Musyj said he wants to opt out of using the Ornge air ambulance service all together.

Ornge submitted its foreign air carrier application to the FAA after it was granted an air operator certificate from Transport Canada for helicopter operations.

During the application process, the FAA determines if an air carrier's systems are designed to meet all regulatory requirements before the issuance of approval.

Through the approval process, FAA officials vetted aviation documentation, including policy and training manuals, procedures, and certificates of airworthiness, and determined Ornge to be in compliance with its regulations.

During the application process, Ornge PC-12NG airplanes continued to transport patients to and from the U.S.