Interview: Redstar Aviation
Redstar Aviation has seized the opportunities for change presented by Covid-19. ITIJ spoke to C. Emre Dursun, CEO of Redstar Aviation, about how they have developed their provision of air ambulance services worldwide.
How busy have Redstar Aviation been since Covid hit? Have you had to rationalise your assets over the past two years, or invest in your fleet to change its capabilities?
The whole world is going through some rough times at the moment, which has shaken up how we all live. Since 1989, Redstar Aviation (RSA) has been a recognised player in the provision of air ambulance services worldwide. During the present upheavals due to Covid, our business has actually grown, and we’ve taken this as an opportunity for positive change where we’ve focused on consolidating our operation and resources while adapting to the new ways brought about by the pandemic. At the same time, we have continued to offer our clients the best possible service.
For some time, we have been planning to enlarge our fleet with the acquisition of long-range aircraft to cover the specific requirements of our clients. The additional challenges and restrictions imposed by different countries during the pandemic, which none of us had expected, have accelerated our decision to take on new aircraft types. In 2021, we achieved our goal with the addition of two long-range Bombardier Challenger 605s that can accommodate up to three intensive care unit (ICU) stretchers, enabling us to offer full global coverage. Together with our existing five Bombardier Learjet 45 XRs, we are now better able to respond to the needs of our customers.
We have also restructured our key operating departments, allowing us to manage our services with dedicated teams for each phase of complex medical repatriations. We have also upgraded our in-house maintenance capabilities and established our own training school, which means we now have greater flexibility in both of these areas.
Additionally, we have augmented our medical capability to perform complicated active Covid-19 case missions and patients requiring specific support and equipment, such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). This has made a significant change to the services we can provide, offering global coverage with additional capabilities. We have also increased the total flight hours by 35 per cent at the end of 2021 and we are continuing to develop this growth momentum.
During this period we carried out many challenging missions including 808 active Covid-19 cases. One of these was the longest flight – 26 hours with a Covid patient. The aircraft departed from Bagram, Afghanistan, for Houston in the USA, on a critical 14,129km seven-leg flight, with six technical stops and two flight crew changes en-route, during which time RSA’s specialised medical teams performed uninterrupted patient care through the portable medical isolation unit.
Flying Covid-19 patients inevitably poses a risk to flight and medical crews; how are these risks mitigated by Redstar?
We’ve taken Covid as an opportunity for positive change, where we’ve focused on consolidating our operation and resources while adapting to the new ways
During the first days of the pandemic, there were many uncertainties regarding the critical health risks the medical crews had to face. We overcame these uncertainties with relative ease. We enjoyed the benefit of being well prepared prior to the pandemic, since we had already been providing such services for various governmental and non-governmental organisations. Our operational and medical infrastructure in terms of staff and equipment were ready to face Covid-19 when it all began. We have equipped our aircraft with state-of-the-art additional medical equipment, such as next-generation isolation pods and chambers, to provide maximum protection and operational safety for both the contaminated patients and our operational team.
We always take our aircraft hygiene very seriously. Every aircraft is thoroughly cleaned and detailed from the inside out to ensure it is sanitised and ready to go for each and every trip made throughout the day. All these actions are planned in detail and their management is based on our risk assessments, conducted regularly during the pandemic, since both our patients’ and medical teams’ safety are our priority.
The world of air medical transport is constantly evolving; what are you investing in (aircraft or medical equipment) that will allow you to serve the international insurance industry to the highest possible standards?
As Redstar Aviation, we are proud to be one of the leading companies in our sector and we have made major investments in our infrastructure, capacity and facilities, including acquiring maintenance and training capabilities, and we maintain round-the-clock air ambulance, offshore, and air taxi services, carried out by some 200 employees.
As mentioned above, in 2021 we added two long range Bombardier Challenger 605s to our inventory in line with the expansion of our fleet, but of course this expansion will not stop there.
We have also taken the bold step of building a new hangar facility at Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport, which is our main business hub. The new 6,000m² allocated area at Sabiha Gökçen will be an addition to the existing 1,500m² hangar facilities at Istanbul Atatürk Airport. Once construction is complete, we will be relocating our headquarters to Sabiha Gökçen and we’ll be able to further develop our capabilities in operations, management, training and maintenance.
In the meantime, we have redesigned our brand logo to reflect our developing values and growing investments. We believe a new brand identity can strengthen a company’s image. That’s why we’ve remodelled our logo – to better convey our vision, strategy, and core values. Our new brand communicates a unified tone for the diverse elements of our ever-growing Redstar Aviation family, together with our expanding fleet and service areas. Equipped with our new logo, we look to the future with confidence and determination, and the motivation to achieve our goals for further growth.