Modes of Retrieval

The CARS uses three modes of transport

  • Pressurised fixed wing (83%)
  • Unpressurised rotary wing (15%)
  • Road (2%)

The mode chosen is almost exclusively dictated by the destination.  Rotary wing is faster and more efficient over shorter journeys, and has the capability to land in close proximity to the destination hospital.

Pressurised fixed wing

The CARS currently has the use of two twin engine aircraft, a 441 "Conquest II" and a Beechcraft King Air 200.  Both aircraft are configured to take two pilots, a stretchered patient and clinical crew, and an additional two passengers at the discretion of the pilot.  The King Air can be configured to take two stretchered patients when required.

Both aircraft have short runway capability making them ideally suited for the South Island.  They have a service ceiling of 30-35,000 feet and can maintain a zero foot or sea level cabin to approx 16,000 feet.  This means that as long as the weather is suitable, the aircraft cabin can be kept at sea level pressure on all New Zealand routes.  Maximum speed is 480 km/hr (king Air) to 520 km/hr.

Unpressurised Rotary wing (helicopter)

The MBB/Kawasaki BK 117 is a twin-engined medium utility/transport helicopter.  For hospital transfers it carries one pilot, one paramedic, two CARS staff, and a stretchered patient.  Another seated person may be carried at the discretion of the pilot.  The BK117 has a service ceiling of 17,000 feet, and cruise speed of 280km/hr.


Use of a standard road ambulance will be considered in some cases for local retrievals, such as moving critical patients between CDHB Hospitals, or between private hospitals and Christchurch Hospital.  On occasion it is also necessary to retrieve patients farther afield by road, (usually Ashburton).


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Page last reviewed: 05 December 2016