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Air rescue – UN Ambassadors view a flying intensive care unit

From the outside, it looks like a normal aeroplane – but inside, it’s equipped with the latest technology

From the outside, it looks like a normal aeroplane – but inside, it’s equipped with the latest technology, © Marco Parge

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Many delegations start or end their trip at Tegel Airport in Berlin. But for the 16 United Nations Ambassadors the trip to Tegel Airport was part of their programme. The guests from sub Saharan Africa went to the airport to see the German Air Force’s flying intensive care unit.

Medical care in the sky


The Airbus is used to transport sick and wounded people over long distances. “Air ambulances are used to take the pressure off medical infrastructure on the ground or to provide treatment that cannot be carried out locally,” Ulrich Werner, the medical director and senior consultant on board, told the UN Ambassadors. Depending on how many people need to be transported, Werner is accompanied by a medical crew of up to 25 people, who provide care around the clock.

Dr Werner explaining how patients are transported
Dr Werner explaining how patients are transported© Marco Parge

Up to 44 patients can be transported on stretchers in the A310. Six of these patients can be transported in units that provide the same standard of care as a bed in an intensive care unit in a hospital. The crew can provide the patients with modern intensive care, including artificial respiration. In ten further units, equipment can be installed to measure vital statistics such as blood oxygen levels and heart rate. The readings are displayed on a centralised computer screen, thus enabling the medical team to monitor patients even when they cannot treat them, that is, during take off, landing and severe turbulence.

Evacuations can be carried out worldwide


Colonel Werner of the Medical Corps explaining the MedEvac to the UN Ambassadors
Colonel Werner of the Medical Corps explaining the MedEvac to the UN Ambassadors © Marco Parge

"We usually have two or three patients on a flight,” Werner explained. “In the past 15 years, our Airbus was full around ten times.” This was the case after natural disasters when humanitarian assistance was provided, and after terror attacks, for example in Djerba.


The visitors from Africa remained on the ground this time, but were able to learn a lot about the flying intensive care unit. Martha Pobee, Ghana’s Ambassador to the UN, was very impressed by the aeroplane. “I have never seen anything like it,” she said. “It is amazing what Germany does to repatriate its soldiers and citizens. We can learn a great deal from this in Africa. It is very impressive how Germany also uses the plane to help other countries.”



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