Gander-based airline turning passenger planes into air ambulances

From CBC News – link to source story

EVAS Air will refit 6 aircraft for Latitude Air Ambulance

CBC News · Posted: August 11, 2021

Pat White, chief executive officer of Exploits Valley Air Service, says his company is ready to take on more refitting projects. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

A Gander-based airline is moving in a new direction and turning passenger planes into air ambulances for a company in Hamilton, Ont.

Exploits Valley Air Service (EVAS) operated Air Canada flights before the pandemic, but now the company is branching out with a product it’s familiar with — the Beechcraft 1900D. It’s a 19-seat passenger plane EVAS first started using about 16 years ago.

“It’s a great fit for medical people. Like, this aircraft is the right size. It can go into a 3,000 foot strip. It can climb to 25,000 feet and go over 300 miles an hour,” EVAS CEO Pat White told CBC News. “So it’s really an ideal aircraft for that.” 

EVAS has struck a deal with Latitude Air Ambulance to retrofit six airplanes into air ambulances. White said they have the ability to fit the planes with equipment for multiple patients, newborns, isolation chambers for infectious diseases and they can take bariatric patients.

While many airlines have seen an unprecedented slump in business since the pandemic struck, White said things for his company have accelerated.

He said in July 2020 he was seeing “Christmas levels” of business in cargo. 

The Beechcraft 1900D has a lift for helping medical personnel load stretchers into the airplane. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

While waiting to re-enter the passenger market, White said retrofitting is the way to go. And the only way to go is up.

“There are actually over 200 aircraft that have to be replaced in the United States of this size, and gauge and so on. So I can see dozens and dozens of people working on this product in multiple shifts going forward,” he said.

“There are 439 of these planes built. There are 37 that have been chopped up for parts. There are six that have been crashed, leaving about a net of 380 serial numbers and I know every one of them and I know where they are.”

This Beechcraft 1900D is no longer a 19-seat passenger plane. Instead it’s a new air ambulance. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Peter Byl is president of Hamilton-based Latitude Air Ambulance. 

Latitude bought the planes, shipped them to Gander to be refitted into air ambulances and will fly them home when the job is done. They’ll be fitted with life-saving equipment, a lift for stretchers and a bay where stretchers can lock in during flights. 

Byl said his company was looking for something to get into more remote areas.

“We needed something that could get into smaller airstrips, gravel airstrips and carry multiple patients,” he said.

“When we were talking with Pat about the Medi Maxx. It seemed this ticked off a lot of our boxes that we needed to be in this business.”