How the Largest Fleet of Air Ambulance Helicopters Stays Ready

By Pratt & Whitney Customer Service

Picture this: An air ambulance helicopter is called to the site of a highway accident in a major city. Traffic is backed up and first responders are on the scene. The pressure is on to get the air ambulance helicopter to land on the highway and take off again quickly—for the patient’s sake and for traffic flow to be restored.

U.S.-based Air Methods has a fleet of 488 aircraft, of which 94% are helicopters, making them the largest helicopter operator in the world. Within that fleet, they operate the globe's biggest air medical company, transporting roughly 130,000 patients per year.

Air Ambulance Helicopter Load Capacity

Typically, for weight management, an air ambulance carries just 60% of its fuel capacity to be able to accommodate all the essential medical equipment and people: one pilot, one patient, and at least two medical professionals. Archie Gray, Senior Vice President of Aviation Services at Air Methods explains, “This type of work means that helicopters go through a lot of cycles and are often operating at high power settings, a combination that creates a lot of wear and tears on engine components.”

Always Ready to Fly

Air Methods' maintenance requirements are incredibly demanding. In order to ensure they must have aircraft in service in every region at all times, a spare air ambulance helicopter is at the every base to cover for maintenance downtime.

Their maintenance teams work closely with P&WC to make sure their fleet of Airbus H135 aircraft, powered by P&WC PW206B/B2 engines, are always ready to serve their communities. P&WC's PW206C and PT6B-37A engines also power many of other Air Methods aircraft.

"P&WC has engines sitting at a location ready to change in that aircraft before I even knew we needed an engine change. That's how integrated they are in this company."


Through 24/7 P&WC technical assistance for mechanics and in-person walk-throughs of special service bulletins, Air Methods gets their helicopters returned to service quickly.

Scheduling Air Ambulance Helicopter Maintenance with P&WC

An essential part of Air Methods' maintenance routine comes from P&WC's assistance in monitoring, planning, and forecasting upcoming repairs. Every month the health of each engine in the fleet is reviewed by Air Methods' engineers and P&WC staff to jointly prepare for upcoming maintenance.

When abnormalities in engine performance are spotted, Air Methods receives practical suggestions on how to improve engine serviceability which keeps them on the aircraft longer, increasing in-service rates and decreasing off-wing repair costs.

Eventually, need to be replaced. Through trending performance data, maintenance history and flight volume, P&WC is able to forecast which engines will need to be replaced and when the replacement needs to happen, giving Air Methods the chance to anticipate the logistics and plan the overhaul with the least disruption to operations.

What Pratt & Whitney Canada does on a daily basis is above and beyond. Out of all of our suppliers P&WC is what I would refer to as a true partner.


Photo courtesy of Air Methods.