Helicopters, while their operation tends to be more local, should also be subject to regular disinfections when operating in high risk areas depending on the type of operation, even more so considering that most helicopter cabins do not have any internal compartments, therefore protecting passengers and crew is very important.
In particular, Air Ambulance and HEMS operations, considering the specific medical circumstances, should exercise heightened caution during this outbreak. Flight crew should, as much as possible, avoid being involved in the handling of the medical passenger in order to maintain some separation. Medical crew on board should be the ones involved with the patient. Operator’s crew and medical staff should respect social distancing. As social distancing is not effective inside the helicopter, operators of multi-crew operations may consider crewing the same persons together to avoid cross-contamination. Road ambulance should be the preferred option for patients known to be infected. Flight crew should wear personal protective equipment such as gloves and face mask, as compatible with the mission. Further protection measures may be imposed for the Air Ambulance and HEMS flight based on the epidemiological risk assessment of the medical crew.
Proper consideration should be given to the general recommendations in terms of suitability of substances and protection of the crew.
The interior of aircraft should be cleaned prior to disinfection in accordance with the est ablished operators’ procedures. The disinfection should be performed after each flight when operating from a high risk area or where after transporting a COVID-19 suspect passenger. The operator may implement different disinfection frequency based on a risk assessment which takes into account the operationa l circumstances and the duration of the disinfecting effects of the substance used. In such a case, the operator shall ensure that the aircraft is fully cleaned and disinfected at least once in 24 hours. Furthermore, for the Air Ambulance and HEMS operators the frequency of cleaning may be adjusted based on the epidemiological assessment of the medical crew.
Whenever practicable, remove any interior items including; seat cushions, protective covers, curtain, cabinets and equipment for improved access. The removed equipment should be disinfected in accordance with the appropriate manufacturer specifications (if any) or applying generally accepted procedures.
Disinfection products should be applied, using pre-impregnated wipes (scrub and wipe technique) to keep the materials localized. Disinfectants can be used on the installed aircraft interior and exterior handles including:
• Panelling, including: sides, overhead and the cargo compartment
• Internal and external handles
• Seat belt buckles (Do not apply to Seat belt webbing)
• Seats and seat covers
• Medical interior
• Medical retainers
• Stretcher platform and stretcher (handles and surfaces)
• Door handles inside/outside
In order to avoid damage during disinfectant application, prevent the following:
• Spraying, evaporation or uncontrolled application in the interior of the helicopter
• Puddle formation and penetration in crevices / joints etc.
• Contact with electric or electronic components
• Contact with cockpit displays, glass covers on flight instruments and any equipment screen surfaces.
Personnel using such disinfection products shall follow the manufacturer’s safety advice and use appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).