NewsPalm Beach County


2 new Trauma Hawk helicopters to replace air ambulances in service since 1999

Leonardo AW169 choppers to take over for Sikorsky S76-C+ ones
A Leonardo AW169 helicopter is among two to join the Trauma Hawk fleet run by the Palm Beach County Health District. September 2023
Posted at 4:53 PM, Sep 17, 2023

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Two new Trauma Hawk helicopters in Palm Beach County will replace two air ambulances that have been in service since 1999, the Health Care District announced.

The first of two Leonardo AW169 helicopters arrived earlier this month. The district anticipates the second helicopter will be delivered this month.

“This marks a new era in the Health Care District’s commitment to delivering safe, high-quality trauma services to our community,” Darcy J. Davis, CEO of the Health Care District, said in a news release. "These state-of-the-art helicopters will provide swift and efficient air transportation to enhance patient access to critical medical services and improved healthcare outcomes.”

The Leonardo AW169 helicopters will replace the two Sikorsky S76-C+ aircraft.

Those choppers will remain in service throughout the transition as flight teams and mechanics undergo specialized training.

"The Health Care District’s aeromedical program has been a key component of Palm Beach County’s integrated trauma system for more than 30 years,” Dr. Kenneth A. Scheppke, medical director of the Health Care District’s aeromedical and ground transportation programs, as well as the medical director for Palm Beach County Fire Rescue. “These new, technologically-advanced aircraft will play a key role in EMS response by providing critically ill and injured patients access to safe and rapid air transport in a county with a land area larger than the state of Rhode Island.”

With a cruising speed of up to 178 miles per hour, the Sikorsky S76-C+ Trauma Hawk air ambulances serve
more 2,300 square miles, which is the largest county by area in Florida.

Before 1990, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department helicopters were used for air transport of critically ill and injured patients to area hospitals.

The AW169 include a longitudinal roll-on stretcher system, which minimizes patient movement during loading and unloading. The Trauma Hawk medical team will no longer need to transfer patients onto hospital stretchers at the helipad, saving crucial minutes during lifesaving missions.

"These new aircraft are a leap forward in technology for both the pilots and the medical crews,” Jay Mazzone, the Health Care District’s director of Aeromedical Transportation said. “With advanced avionics, larger and brighter displays, and the added capability of night vision goggles, we are moving into the next generation of aircraft that will help us maintain and enhance our relentless focus on safety.”

The air medical team on each chopper includes at least one Health Care District commercial instrument-rated pilot along with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue medical personnel. The Health Care District also employs a team of aviation technicians and program support staff.
“We are grateful to the Health Care District of Palm Beach County for investing in the advancement and safety of the aeromedical program for the community,” Chief Charles Coyle, division chief of Medical Services for Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, said “Our Palm Beach County Fire Rescue flight nurses and flight medics are excited and prepared to start the training process of learning all the nuances of this new high-tech helicopter.”

The helicopters and staff are stationed at Palm Beach International Airport.

Palm Beach County includes two Level 1 trauma centers: St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach and Delray Medical Center.

The Health Care District of Palm Beach County is a special taxpayer-funded district that has served as a health care safety net for 35 years to fill in gaps in access to healthcare services.