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Medical crises often happen when we least expect them, on quiet days scarred by car crashes, heart attacks, hurricanes and a million other complications we don’t schedule and can’t control.
In those moments, first-responders do everything they can to save lives and ensure everyone with a chance of survival makes it safely out. Saving lives is the mission of every pilot, paramedic, police officer or firefighter who uses a helicopter as an air medical tool.
It’s also the mission of every company that makes or modifies an aircraft for rescue purposes, including Spectrum Aeromed, a leading designer and manufacturer of air ambulance interiors.
“Our mission is to save lives,” said Ricky Reno, a commercial helicopter pilot, flight instructor and A&P (airframe and powerplant) technician who is also a vice-president and account executive with Spectrum Aeromed. “This is not just a department of our business; it is our core business–saving lives.”
Spectrum Aeromed has been designing, developing and installing air ambulance interiors for more than 25 years. The company is based in a 17,000-square-foot (1,580-square-meter), state-of-the-art facility at Hector International Airport in Fargo, North Dakota.
Spectrum has more than 60 supplemental type certificates for almost 300 aircraft models. It can supply any rotorcraft with the equipment needed to fulfill its helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) mission.
“The equipment that we have designed and built can be utilized in pretty much any make and model of helicopter that’s out there,” said Reno.
“We don’t look at it as being an aircraft–a specific aircraft as a challenge. We look at it as, there’s a specific space that we have to work with, either rotor-wing or fixed-wing. And, we’re able to provide equipment that will help the customer meet their mission capability.”
Spectrum Aeromed has become synonymous with air life support, helping clients around the world with customized solutions to complicated and comprehensive HEMS requirements.
“We focus on doing nothing but providing air medical equipment for aircraft,” said Reno. “Other companies that are out there, they focus on other things. But, we put all the resources that we have for our business into that–specifically for air ambulance and medical equipment.”
Spectrum Aeromed has become known for its intensive design process based on in-depth research, with a focus on meeting the needs of patients, pilots and paramedics alike.
“We really sit down and talk to the customer and find out what their mission need is,” said Reno. “As technology changes, the end users are the ones that are actually out there doing the job. They’re going to know what they need; they’re going to know what works and does not work.
“As a manufacturer, we’re not the actual end user, and we’re not utilizing the product every day. So, by keeping in contact with the customer . . . they’re providing feedback, and that helps us learn and build equipment that’s going to help [our customers] accomplish their missions.”
Spectrum Aeromed provides customized HEMS solutions that range from simple to complex, and virtually every increment in between.
If an offshore customer needs to transport patients only occasionally, in a dual-purpose Leonardo AW139 or Sikorsky S-76, Spectrum’s offering allows the operator to quickly fit a certified, low-cost stretcher in place of two passenger seats.
At the next level, an air ambulance that needs basic life support but not suction pumps, air pumps and other advanced equipment, Spectrum Aeromed has a solution for that, too.
“Again, it’s a quick-change solution,” said Reno. “In less than 20 minutes they can convert the aircraft from a utility aircraft into a HEMS type of airframe and be able to transport a patient.”
In the case of an advanced life support system in a dual-role law enforcement aircraft, Spectrum Aeromed has a modular solution that crews can install in less than 20 minutes.
“It has suction pumps, air pumps, oxygen, electric inverters, and they’ve now got this aircraft that is an air ambulance that wasn’t really modified internally to become a fully dedicated system,” said Reno.
“Or, then we can go into a fully dedicated customer that has a fully integrated interior and provide suction pumps, air, liquid oxygen system.”
Nearly all the salespeople at Spectrum have backgrounds in aviation, either as pilots, mechanics or similar professions.
“A lot of people think it’s just that you’re a medical company,” said Reno, who is also a retired military pilot with more than 30 years of aviation experience. “Well, not really, because this is aviation. It is the aviation industry, and what we do are aviation products.”
When a customer chooses Spectrum Aeromed, it begins a relationship that lasts the life of the product, and hopefully the life of the company.
“It’s important to provide that lifetime support,” said Reno. “Spectrum Aeromed is there to help you with your HEMS solutions–at a low cost, but high quality.”