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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.

Photo by Lindsay Keats

Urgent specialist medical care

Our air ambulance places are flying intensive care wards staffed by specialist flight nurses, doctors and crew. 

If you've had an accident or are severely ill you might need urgent access to specialist care. For example, patients with spinal injuries are flown to Christchurch's spinal unit. If a premature baby is born in Nelson, they may need further treatment in Wellington's neonatal unit. While seriously ill children might need a flight to Starship. 

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

The Air Ambulance Planes

The type of plane used to provide Life Flight’s air ambulance service is a Jetstream 32. The air ambulance 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 435 litres of jet fuel per hour
  • With full fuel (1,833 litres) they can fly for up to four hours continuously
  • They have an average cruising speed of 425km/h
  • They can maintain sea-level pressurisation flying at 12,000 feet
  • They have an average flight height of 16,000 feet.

Types of missions 

Neonatal care

Critically ill babies often require specialist care than can only be found in a few hospitals nationwide.  

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

A premature baby can weigh as little as 500g – and their tiny hearts and lungs can struggle to survive. Thankfully, Life Flight’s aircraft is equipped with special incubators, and specially trained medical staff are on-board, to keep them safe during their journey. 

Urgent medical transfers

Every day someone needs medical care or equipment that is not available at their local hospital. 

These patients may suffer from a range of conditions, but most frequently we fly cardiovascular, stroke, or seizure patients to get the expert care they need.  

Specially trained flight nurses' join the patient, and for those that are critically ill, a flight doctor and flight nurse with expertise in intensive care medicine also join the patient. 

Urgent accident transfers

When there has been an accident and the patient requires specialist medical care, the Air Ambulance is called to take them to get the expert care that they need.

This includes patients who have suffered severe burns and critical spinal damage.   

For those with brain injuries, the aircraft can maintain sea-level pressurization flying at up to 12,000 feet. 

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.