NZDF Reaches New Heights in Aeromedical Evacuation Exercise

6 March 2019

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has successfully simulated evacuating injured patients to help develop its helicopter aeromedical evacuation capability.

Two training flights involving a specialist trained medical team consisting of a nurse, a doctor and three medics were held yesterday as part of Exercise Starlight Ligatures, which runs from 3-10 March. Six personnel role-playing as casualties were transported in a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) NH90 helicopter.

“The exercise is part of a number of activities to maintain currency and prepare the team,” said Major Dave Greenhough, the Interim Rotary Wing Aeromedical Evacuation Lead.

The NH90 helicopter used for the exercise was reconfigured to function as an air ambulance, equipped with essential medical equipment and supplies, Major Greenhough said.

Once airborne, the patients’ vital signs were monitored and patient care continued throughout the 15-minute flight from RNZAF Base Ohakea to Languards Bluff in Whanganui.

“When training for aeromedical evacuations of patients by helicopter, we evaluate a number of aspects such as teamwork, communication and coordination among the team, while ensuring the safety and continuity of care of patients,” Major Greenhough said.

Group Captain Peter Franken, the Joint Support Component Commander, said although the NZDF did not have a dedicated air ambulance, it had been developing an aeromedical evacuation capability using NH90 helicopters.

“The capability to transport our servicemen and women from the point of injury to the next level of care is vital to enhancing their medical outcomes and will provide critical support to real-world operations,” Group Captain Franken said.

“It will also enhance our Defence Force’s response to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief emergencies.”

As part of the exercise, eight Force Health Protection staff had also been working with the local Public Health Unit to practise their skills in assessing drinking water quality, soil quality, waste management, sanitation and food safety, Army Lieutenant Dan Hirst said.

“When we deploy on operations or exercises in New Zealand or overseas, we ensure that environmental health threats are dealt with so that our personnel remain healthy to achieve their mission,” Lieutenant Hirst said.


This page was last reviewed on 11 March 2019.