Samoa establishes link to Careflight emergency airline

Chris Langton - used to pilot emergency flights

Chris Langton – used to pilot emergency flights

By Alan Ah Mu

APIA: TUESDAY 5 MARCH 2013: A link to an airline which flies patients for emergency medical treatment has been established.

Careflight Group Queensland has flown in for such tasks only a few times mostly unnoticed.

It’s most recent airlift in Samoa occurred last weekend, its passenger a seriously-ill managing director of Samoa Quality Broadcasting.

Galumalemana was the estimated fifth patient airlifted by Careflight from Samoa.

It came about because chief executive officer of Samoa Air, Chris Langton, knows of the service Careflight provides – and has a relative who works for SQB.

Langton was a founding staff member of Careflight, which flies to anywhere in the world to provide what they call “Rapid response critical care” to patients, place them on board airplanes in the care of medical staff and emergency facilities, and rush them to the hospital they are in need of.

“I was their chief pilot and operations manager,” he said.

He recalls a flight to Solomon Islands for a policeman from Samoa who was badly injured in a traffic accident while there as a peacekeeper for the United Nations.

The policeman was flown to Australia secretly, with Langton forced to switch off the lights in the plane at night at the airport.

Because the traffic accident had also cost the life of a local the natives wanted to get their hands on the policeman to kill him.

In his seven years at Careflight, Langton also flew over to evacuate two members of the Survival television series who while on motor cycles smashed into each other head on.

Langton said he flew hundreds of emergency flights everywhere … to China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea.

“We used to do a lot of jobs out of cruise ships,” he said.

Within two hours of a telephone call their aeroplane would be airborne.

“The plane that picked up Galumalemana had a life support system more sophisticated than the one at the national hospital,” said Langton.

An age limit stopped his flights for Careflight, but the veteran pilot now has his own airline to run.

That means a keen eye out for prospects for the development of tourism here.

Travel insurance is a must for many, especially the elderly, which includes Samoans from overseas, who want to visit.

It should be encouraged said Langton to encourage people to visit.

Insurance pays for emergency flights out of the country if needed.

“You know people who travel these days think of these things.”

Samoa Air, which flies between the islands of Upolu and Savai’i, aims to secure a “life port system” ready for a doctor to use if needed in Samoa.

It is in response to knowledge of travellers who won’t visit unless they know emergency medical treatment is available.

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