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Air Ambulance Planes

Life Flight provides a 24/7 nationwide air ambulance service transporting critically ill patients who urgently require specialist medical care often only available in one or two hospitals in New Zealand.

Urgent specialist medical care

An example of urgent specialist care might be, a patient in Wellington with a spinal injury may need access to Christchurch’s specialist spinal unit, or a baby in Nelson may need access to Wellington’s specialist neonatal unit.

The air ambulance service is like a flying intensive care ward staffed by specialist flight nurses, doctors and crew.

Life Flight coordinates a full bed-to-bed service, taking care of all logistics and providing the aircraft, equipment and expert medical teams.

The Planes

The type of plane used to provide Life Flight’s air ambulance service is a Jetstream 32.

The plane is pressurised and equipped to fly at all times of the day and night in all but the most severe weather.

It can be configured to carry two patients, one crewperson, a medical team and up to four relatives or support people for the patient. Being able to travel with loved-ones is invaluable to families struggling with a severe trauma.

Did you know?

  • The planes use around 380 litres of jet fuel per hour
  • With full fuel (2,453 litres) the planes can fly for up to seven hours continuously: this means flying the length of New Zealand or to the Chatham Islands and back without refuelling
  • The planes have an average cruising speed of 470km/h
  • They can maintain sea-level pressurisation flying at 15,000 feet
  • They have an average flight height of 18,000 feet.

Types of missions flown

Neonatal care

The advanced care required for the sickest babies can only be found in a few hospitals around the country.

Each year, Life Flight flies hundreds of premature babies to the vital specialist care they need.

A premature baby can weigh as little as 500 grams. Their tiny hearts and lungs can struggle to survive and thrive. Fortunately Life Flight’s aircraft can be equipped with special baby incubators, and specially trained flight medical staff are on-board, to keep them safe during their critical journeys.

Urgent medical transfers

Every day someone needs medical care or equipment only available at a hospital outside of their local area. Patients flown can have a wide variety of medical conditions, including heart or neurological problems.

Specially trained flight nurses staff the flights and, with critically ill patients, a flight doctor and flight nurse with expertise in intensive care medicine attend the journey.

Urgent accident transfers

The Air Ambulane Planes also fly accident victims to specialist medical care or to a hospital in their home region. This includes people who have serious injuries such as critical spinal damage or severe burns. 

Medical Equipment

Life Flight’s air ambulances are equipped to a very high standard so patients can receive intensive care on their life-saving journeys. Our teams perform some of the most complex air ambulance transfers in New Zealand.

  • Medical Bags

    Medical Bags

    The medical teams have a range of bags available to take depending on the category of patient they are transferring. This includes Full Intensive Care, Non-Intensive Care, Paediatric, Neonatal Intensive Care and Maternity.

  • Zoll Monitor

    Zoll Monitor

    Our most used piece of medical equipment, the Zoll Monitor, is used on every stretcher patient we transfer. It monitors their vital signs and current medical condition. The Zoll also has a built in cardiac defibrillator.

  • Baby pod

    Baby pod

    The baby pod is used to transfer stable babies, who require only basic monitoring, in a warm and safe enclosed environment.

    The pod can be secured on any stretcher type using its strapping system.

  • I Stat

    I Stat

    The I Stat is a portable blood gas analyser. It is used by medical teams to get instant blood gas results to assist with making decisions regarding the patient’s treatment.

  • Baby transfer Incubator

    Baby transfer Incubator

    Used for transporting the smallest patients.The incubator weighs around 120 kg and has all the bells and whistles needed to safely transfer babies requiring Intensive Care to and from specialist care units around the country.

    The incubator can be used for premature babies as young as 24 weeks and only weighing a few hundred grams, up to babies weighing 5 kg.

  • Vacuum Mattress/Bean bag

    Vacuum Mattress/Bean bag

    Used for transferring patients with suspected or confirmed spinal injuries and also some pelvic injury patients.

    After the patient is positioned onto the mattress and secured by multiple straps, air is then removed from the mattress. This creates a rigid, stable and safe platform for the patient to be moved /transferred.   

  • Hamilton  T1 Ventilator

    Hamilton T1 Ventilator

    A small portable ventilator mounted on our stretcher bridge, able to perform the same tasks as the machines in hospital Intensive Care units. The T1 is very versatile unit, able to be used on patients weighing 5 kg and over who are unable to breathe effectively for themselves.