KARACHI: Resuming the Edhi Air Ambulance Service after three years, Faisal Edhi, head of Edhi Foundation and son of late philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi, has said he will soon start flying the aircraft to rescue patients during emergencies, just like his father used to drive ambulances from their service decades ago.
“I completed 40 hours of flying with my instructor and two hours of solo flight during my training at a flying school in England in 2001,” he said, adding that he is a trained pilot. However, Faisal said that he could not get a licence because Edhi received an invitation from the United Nations and his father wanted him to return to Pakistan and represent him there. Faisal added that later he got busy with work and never got the chance to obtain the licence.
Edhi foundation: SDA lends a helping hand
“I had the dream of taking the Edhi Foundation to calamity hit areas [to rescue patients] by flying the aircraft but it was never fulfilled,” he told The Express Tribune. However, Faisal said he will soon fly the aircraft himself after re-doing a two-month refresher course from Pakistan or abroad.
“My instructors in training school abroad used to wonder about my smooth landings,” he recalled, adding that when his aircraft touched down on the runway it could never be felt. Faisal said that he will fly the air ambulance during emergency situations and in the absence of other pilots.
He said the death of their chief pilot Captain Imtiaz three years back was the reason behind shutting down the air ambulance service. Speaking about resuming the air ambulance services, Faisal said that a test flight of their aircraft will be conducted within two to three days. The test flight that was conducted last week was not approved by the Civil Aviation Authority due to some vibrations in the aircraft. “We have tackled the issue in the aircraft and hopefully this week we will get approval [to fly],” he said.
Death threats: Edhi's family seeks police protection
Explaining the significance of the air ambulance, Faisal said it is critical to resume the service since it helps airlift serious patients to major cities during accidents and emergencies. “Precious lives can be saved through this service,” Faisal said, adding that this is necessary especially in situations when road access is blocked due to earthquakes or floods. He said that in emergencies, the service will be delivered free-of-charge whereas in other cases Rs70,000 to Rs80,000 will be charged per hour.
Resuming the service
Currently, the foundation has a six-seater Piper Seneca. Both the engines of the aircraft have been replaced, as the previous ones had completed their flying hours. According to Faisal, Rs15million has been spent on the airworthiness of the aircraft. A new pilot has also been hired, along with a ground technical team that is required to make the aircraft operational. The service was started in the late 80s and was used in various rescue missions since then with intermittent breaks due to various financial, technical and logistical issues.
Speaking about buying more aircrafts for the service, Faisal said that currently they plan to buy single-engine Cessna Grand Caravan, a 14-seater aircraft to increase the fleet of their air ambulance service for which donations have already been collected. However, he expressed his concerns that, being a single-engine aircraft, it would not be permitted to fly at night in Pakistan, although the same aircraft usually flies in Europe and the United States. Faisal added that the new aircraft, which will be added within a few months, can be landed on roads in emergency situations and can transfer between six to 10 patients at a time.