Pel-Air Aviation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rex, has commenced operations under a 10-year contract with NSW Air Ambulance.
The contract, announced in February 2020, will see the Mascot-based airline perform fixed-wing operations on its fleet of five new aeromedical Beechcraft King Air 350s, on behalf of the NSW Air Ambulance.
The new contract mirrors a similar longstanding agreement the operator holds with Victoria’s state health department and marks the end of the NSW government’s 19-year partnership with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
The newly acquired King Air turboprops were delivered to Pel-Air between December 2020 and June 2021, in anticipation for the beginning of the new contract on 1 January 2022.
Prior to beginning operations, the fleet underwent modifications in line with NSW Air Ambulance’s specific needs, which has seen the King Air 350 fleet dubbed the “hospital in the sky” by the NSW government.
The NSW state government said the Pel-Air fleet is now equipped to provide 24/7 critical medical care and perform complex aeromedical missions, ranging from standard patient transfers to intra-aortic balloon pump operations and major incident responses.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said the new fleet would provide a major boost to NSW Ambulance’s fixed-wing operations, improving patient transport speeds and reaching even more areas of the state.
“These aircraft are like hospitals in the sky, and they can get to some of the most remote regions of the state and land at both commercial airports and smaller runways,” Toole said.
Meanwhile, Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said, “This new fleet will be an absolute game changer, offering the technology, comfort and fuel efficiency never before seen in a NSW Ambulance aircraft.”
Pel-Air chairman John Sharp said, “We are honoured by the confidence that NSW Ambulance has placed in Pel-Air to be able to successfully carry out the procurement and modifications of these new aircraft and to run its aeromedical retrieval operations for the next 10 years.”
Sharp said that “despite the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic”, Pel-Air’s subcontractor, Total Aerospace Solutions, was able to complete the aeromedical modifications on time.
The NSW Air Ambulance contract had previously been held by the Royal Flying Doctor Service for nearly two decades.
Executive director of Aeromedical Operations Dr Sarah Coombes said NSW Ambulance was proud of what it had achieved together with RFDS.
“For 19 years, the RFDS has been there working with NSW Ambulance to provide the best for the community of NSW. We thank them for their remarkable and ongoing contribution to health in this state,” Coombes said.