Air Ambulance Victoria operates five air ambulance helicopters. These are based at Essendon, Bendigo, the Latrobe Valley and Warrnambool.
Four helicopters are part of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS). The fifth helicopter is based at Essendon and while also used for emergency work, is also equipped as a specialist helicopter for retrieving patients needing priority transfer between rural hospitals and specialist services in Melbourne. It is used by Victoria’s three retrieval services: Adult Retrieval Victoria (ARV), Paediatric Emergency Transport Service (PETS) and Neonatal Emergency Transport Service (NETS).
The ambulance helicopters are used as an emergency response to critical medical situations. They can provide an advanced level of care, quick attendance and fast transport of an injured patient to a major hospital. They are also involved in search and rescue, winch operations and sea rescue.
The Essendon helicopter (HEMS 1) is used for both ambulance and police cases. It is staffed by a police pilot, observer and a MICA flight paramedic. It is a Dauphin twin engine helicopter capable of carrying two stretcher patients. It operates primarily within 175km of Melbourne.
The Latrobe Valley (HEMS 2), Bendigo (HEMS 3) and Warrnambool (HEMS4) helicopters are used only as emergency ambulance vehicles. They are Bell 412 helicopters and are also fitted for bucket capability to be used in aerial firefighting. They have a flight range of 250km round trip.
The Latrobe Valley air ambulance helicopter was involved in one of the world’s most dramatic rescues in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.