By Adam Hunt
About a dozen COPA Flight members braved the chilly January temperatures to travel to the Ornge air ambulance base hangar at the Ottawa International Airport for a tour of the facilities and the AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters that they fly.
Our tour guide was AW139 First Officer Mike Smith. Smith was chosen for the assignment because of his extensive general aviation background, flying ultralights, light aircraft and instructing, which meant he spoke our language.
Smith’s enthusiasm for air ambulance flying was obvious as he walked us through how an Ornge dispatch works and then proceeded on a detailed walk around of the Italian-built AW139.
Flight 8 members were fortunate in that there were four AW139s present, half the organization’s fleet. One was the Ottawa standby aircraft, which returned from a call to Cornwall while we were there. It was joined by the Sudbury aircraft, whose crew had reached their maximum crew day after delivering a patient from Sudbury and were overnighting in Ottawa.
There was also a spare aircraft and one partially disassembled for maintenance. The large number of aircraft present gave us a good chance to see the AW139 close up.
Smith powered up the EFISequipped cockpit and described its operation along with the aircraft’s capabilities.
The AW139 is new to Ornge, but it offers a larger cabin than the Sikorsky S-76 that it replaces and has a higher cruise speed, both assets for the medevac mission.
Flight 8 would like to thank Mike Smith for coming in on his evening off to give us such a detailed tour!