Flying heroes: Paramedics to start using jet suits this summer

Not all superheroes wear capes.
Mert Erdemir
A screenshot from the video "Paramedic Mountain Rescue."Gravity Industries/Youtube  

Imagine you're in the thick of a hilly forest, hiking through the wilderness and enjoying nature's beauty all around you. Then disaster strikes: You lose your footing, tumble three or four times and come to a painful stop when you've rolled into a large boulder.

You're disoriented. You're bleeding and bruised. You're traumatized. The worst part is you are alone. It would take hours for an emergency services vehicle to show up, and you might pass out from the pain. There might not be any helicopters available for the situation.

So, you use your cell phone to call for help. You do your best not to nod off from exhaustion, as you don't know if you have a concussion. You wait for what feels like an eternity.

Then, a figure descends from the sky. No, it's not a protective spirit of the forest. It's a person wearing a jet pack. And they're here to rescue you.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service, a UK-based charity that provides helicopter emergency services, announced in September 2020 it was testing a jetpack but was forced to suspend testing because Covid-19 showed no signs of letting up.

But now, some 18 months later, one member of the charitably funded rescue organization has completed training with the jetpack, the company announced recently. And two more members are expected to start their training soon.

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Futuristic kits

This flying rescue suit has two engines on each arm and a larger engine on the back. Direction and movement are controlled by the pilot's hand movements. The engines provide up to 317 pounds of thrust, which allows the pilot to ascend very quickly. 

"We think the Jet Suit paramedic will speed up the response to some hard to access patients in the Lake District and allow us to reach more patients. But to know for sure, we are putting it to the test," said Andy Mawson, who has been called "the brains behind the jet suit paramedic concept."

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A helicopter takes between 25 and 30 minutes to reach a patient in the Lake District National park —  a 912 square-mile nature zone in the Northwest of England that attracts many visitors but can also be dangerous due to its remoteness and mountainous terrain — if the staff can find an area flat enough to land.

However, the jet suits will enable the medics to fly up a hill in 90 seconds, rather than running up for 30 minutes. Therefore, the new Jet Suit will save valuable time while enabling the paramedics to fly to hard-to-reach places.

Are the suits durable to winds?

According to the organization, the Jet Pack suits have been verified to be effective in 35 mile-per-hour winds and could be used on 15 to 20 medical cases a week. 

"We're still awestruck by it, everyone looks at the wow factor and the fact we are the world's first jet suit paramedics, but for us, it's about delivering patient care," Mawson says.

The next stage involves getting jet suits operational in time for medical emergencies this summer—something to keep in mind for the next time you take a hike alone.

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