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Common Aircraft Used in Air Medical Operations


Bell 206

The Bell 206 is one of the oldest original designs used in HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services) today.  A variant on the Bell 206 called the Bell 206L LongRanger is commonly used by air ambulance services because of its “stretched” cabin that provides more space to accommodate a patient, air medical crew, and needed equipment.

Bell 206 helicopter

Bell 407

The Bell Helicopter 407 is a common model in HEMS. Interesting Fact: There is an autonomous, unmanned (UAV) version of the Bell 407 currently being tested called the MQ-8C.

Bell Helicopter 407

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Bell 429

The Bell Helicopter 429 was developed primarily for use in emergency air medical services. It has a flat floor and, in some variations, a set of rear clam-shell doors underneath its tail boom to allow for easier loading of patients.

Bell Helicopter 429

Eurocopter AS-350

The AS-350 is a single engine helicopter, although twin-engined variants exist. The AS-350 is notable for an air medical rescue mission in which it assisted in the rescue of three climbers from Annapurna I at an altitude 5 miles above the earth, the highest such rescue to date.

Eurocopter AS-350

MBB / Kawasaki BK 117

The BK 117 helicopter’s wide use in air medical services benefits from its spacious cabin interior, high loading capacity, overall high performance, and other factors (like the ability to carry a rescue winch, a second stretcher, or a transport incubator)  that make it perfect for HEMS/rescue operations.

BK 117 helicopter

Photo by Juergen Lehle (

Eurocopter EC130

The EC130 has a very large cabin capable of accomodating up to two stretchers. This, along with its large easy-access side door and enclosed tail rotor (fenestron) have given it wide use within the air ambulance industry.

Eurocopter EC130

Photo by Jakub Hałun (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Eurocopter EC135

The EC135 is one of the most popular helicopters with air ambulance services. Like its sister the EC130, one of the reasons it is so commonly used is its enclosed tail rotor (fenestron), which provides added safety when landing at accident scenes in rural or urban areas. The air ambulance variant of the EC135 can carry two patients and two crew.

Eurocopter EC135

Eurocopter EC145

The EC145 is a large light/medium utility helicopter that can be arranged to carry up to two patients on stretchers with three medical staff, in addition to two crew.

Eurocopter EC145

Sikorsky S-76 (S-76A / S76C++)

Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation’s S-76 is a fairly large dual-patient helicopter with sliding doors and a rectangular cabin capable of carrying about 14 passengers in its standard configuration. It has enough room to carry one or two stretchered patients or isolettes. It is utilized for HEMS by hospitals and air ambulance operators in countries around the globe.

Sikorsky S-76

Agusta Westland AW109 Variant

Agusta Westland makes a variation of the AW109, the A109K2, which is more ideal for HEMS with its fixed wheels (as opposed to the retractable wheels found on other variants) and its greater capability for high-altitude, high-temperature operations. Other variants used by aeromedical services include the A109A Mk. II MAX and the A109C MAX, which has an “upgraded” extra wide cabin and access doors.

Agusta Westland AW109

Fixed-Wing Aircraft

Lear Jet 35

A staple of the fixed-wing air ambulance world, the Lear 35 is a very fast jet-powered aircraft with enough room to accommodate a patient and passengers with a reasonable level of comfort. Because of its operating distance and speed, it is often used by air ambulance services for international transports.

Lear 35

Beechcraft King Air 200 (B200 / B200C)

The B200 King Air is a turboprop capable of transporting 1-2 patients depending on configuration. The B200C variant has a large cargo door that makes it more ideal for loading patients/litters as well as medical equipment. These propeller aircraft can be seen in widespread use as air ambulances in many different countries around the world.


Cessna Citation V

Cessna’s Citation series is yet another private / business-class jet that can be utilized for long-haul single-patient transports around the world. The Citation can be converted into an ambulance “on the fly,” without requiring permanent modifications to the interior of the aircraft.

Cessna Citation V

Gulfstream Jet

Yes, the same Gulfstream jets operated for executive and private charters can also be reconfigured for medical transports. Depending on the model and configuration, some Gulfstream models have the capacity to carry as many as four patients in addition to a crew of air medical personnel.

Gulfstream Jet