Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Airlines fortify flu battle plans

Add planes, ready staff for fall H1N1 cases

  • Print

WINNIPEG — After a break-neck spring ferrying H1N1 victims from northern Manitoba to Winnipeg for treatment, Manitoba's medevac players are gearing up for an autumn flying season that could be even busier.

Manitoba's Health Department said it's too early to predict the extent of the virus's reach in the short term but it's preparing for a second wave of H1N1 in the fall.

"We expect we need to be prepared for something more intense than we saw in the spring," said Jean Cox, the department's executive director of rural and northern regional support.

As of last week, more than 850 Manitobans had been diagnosed with the disease, including seven who died.The predictions have the province's four medevac carriers making sure they have the staff and aircraft ready for takeoff should even modest pandemic forecasts become reality.

Fast Air Medevac added a third King Air 200 to its dedicated air ambulance fleet in the spring and is prepared to add another if the demand calls for it.

"A fourth plane is coming, it's just a matter of timing. We could turn (the deal around) relatively quickly," said Tim Hague, director of air ambulance services for the Fast Air Limited subsidiary.

"Our numbers increased dramatically in the spring. We flew more missions in June than in any month in the six years we've been in (the medevac) business."

Hague said Fast Air Medevac called in extra staff in the spring to handle the unprecedented demand and has its people on alert in case the same scenario materializes this fall.

"We have an ongoing commitment to keep the aircraft in the air around the clock. It's a huge concern in Manitoba because our northern communities got hit so terribly hard. Our staffing levels have been really good. We've been fortunate nobody has been sick," he said.

SkyNorth Air Ltd. recently increased its fleet, bumping up its number of King Airs to three. Vice-President Greg Psooy said it is ramping up its staff and equipment to ensure it's ready if the calls come.

To improve the chances that its pilots and medical personnel remain healthy, he said in-flight staff wear face masks and protective gloves and the plane is scrubbed down with disinfectant after every trip.

Neither Perimeter Aviation nor Missinippi Air plan to add planes to their fleets but they're both prepared to use charter aircraft and employees into medevac service if the need arises.

Mark Wehrle, president of Perimeter, said it recently recruited a pair of nurses and three paramedic workers from outside Manitoba to ensure it will be able to fully staff its Metro II planes in the fall.

"The demand for nurses outside of air ambulance puts a strain on us. When they're not flying, they're working in a hospital or a nursing station. Having them available will be our biggest challenge. We're recruiting 12 months of the year," he said, noting Perimeter has five aircraft dedicated to medevac but can call upon another dozen should its capacity be reached.

Lena Thorne, chief flight nurse for The Pas-based Missinippi, said its two medevac planes can take five or six trips in a 24-hour period. It also has 10 other planes that could be assigned to medevac duty on short notice, she said.

The medevac market

THERE are 150,000 people in northern Manitoba who rely on air ambulances to get the health care they need. Here's how the province's four medevac providers are equipped to handle an expected surge in H1N1 this fall.

Fast Air Medevac: The Winnipeg-based carrier recently added a third King Air 200 to its medevac fleet and is planning to add a fourth.

Perimeter Aviation: The biggest regional carrier in the province has five Metro IIs providing medevac services but it can tap into another 12 planes if need be.

SkyNorth Air: The Winnipeg-based carrier has three King Air A100s providing air ambulance services.

Missinippi Airways: Based in The Pas, it has two King Air B200s dedicated to medevac but it can also use 10 other planes in its fleet if required.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 29, 2009 A4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


I Dream of Diesel at Rachel Brown Theatre scene preview

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada goose protects her nest full of eggs Monday on campus at the University of Manitoba- Standup photo- Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Standup- Morning Fog. Horse prances in field by McPhillips Road, north of Winnipeg. 060605.

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board to foreign companies?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google