We all know it’s not just about engine capacity. The benefits and costs of twin-engine rotorcraft over single-engine rotorcraft are well known, and twin-engine rotorcraft such as the Airbus H135, Bell 429, and Leonardo AW169, among others, are mainstays of SAR and HEMS operations. But the change has happened more recently than you might think, and the experience and training of pilots, budgetary considerations and different regulations across the world means that for some operators the switch from a single-engine aircraft to a twin-engine aircraft may require careful consideration.
Regional differences often dictate whether one or two engines are more popular
Twin engines are ubiquitous in the aviation medical sector, but it would be misleading to suggest that this presence is universal. A spokesperson for Leonardo told AirMed & Rescue: “HEMS is very fragmented around the world. Some countries, including the United States, Australia and much of Europe, have deployed [air medical] services for years while other countries are historically completely lacking. Due to the current Covid-19 outbreak, many are currently evaluating air medicine in support of the national health system. These are more oriented towards small platforms, that is to say single-engine, in order to limit the initial investment while developing the entire system and the necessary infrastructures.
Chris Emerson, then president of Airbus Helicopters, highlighted the expected growth in twin-engine sales, citing changes in the airline medical industry as well as growing patient needs. In comments to AIN Online, Emerson said, “I think you’re going to see a pickup on the twins. In the past four years in the aviation medical industry, we have sold more twins than singles.
“The needs of the population are changing. The demographics are such that helicopters need to do more. The famous aerial medical golden hour has given way to the need to immediately take emergency care on board. It’s about having the medical equipment and know-how on the helicopter to provide service immediately, not at the golden hour. An H145 is now a flying hospital.