In Chile, Aerocardal airline carried out operations against Covid-19, through flights for the transport of people and supplies.
By Florencia Lucero Heguy and Santiago Rivas
Photos by William Olave
Aerocardal is a Chilean company that carries out medical, cargo or passenger transport, operating in the heights of the Andes Mountains, the ice of Antarctica and over the Pacific Ocean. It’s the only airline in Chile with the ability to reach Easter Island for a medical evacuation flight.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the company carried out flights to carry passengers and supplies within Chile, with the aim of collaborating in this crisis that is occurring worldwide.
Aerocardal is a company that has 120 people, has four large divisions, one is the operations area, made up of fourteen pilots plus many others who are external, a good quantity for a commercial executive aviation company. In addition, they have a maintenance area that is also quite extensive: the Aeronautical Maintenance Center (CMA), where they provide service to their own fleet, which is made up of eleven aircraft, but also they provide services to more than 30 other customers. The third area of the company is dedicated to aeromedical flights.
The fleet consists of a Gulfstream G280, which was purchased by a customer and is managed by Aerocardal through the aircraft management system, also offering it to third parties, making the fourth area of the company. They also have two Gulfstream G150s of their own that are used for both VIP flights and aeromedical transport, with a stretcher and cargo capacity, missions for which they have flown to Easter Island several times, since they are the only civil aircraft for aeromedical evacuation in Chile that can reach the island from the American continent. They are also used for aeromedical flights to and from outside Chile, thanks to their range. In the turboprop area they own a Pilatus PC12 and three Dornier 228s, one of them of the 228-100 version and the others of the -200 series. It should be noted that the Dorniers have already exceeded 60 thousand flight hours in 20 years.
Aerocardal in pandemic
When the Covid-19 pandemic began, the company carried out transport operations for both patients and supplies. “We do not only do executive flights, but also ambulance flights. We are the only company in Chile that can make double stretcher (two on the same plane) and we do it with the Dornier 228”, says Sergio Seguel, the company’s commercial manager.
Regarding work in the pandemic, Seguel explains that “we fly not only with the Dorniers, because we have many types of planes” and he says that “not only did we move patients to private clinics and we worked together with the Ministry of Health, but we were the first to bring the capsules to carry patients”. They also made flights between hospitals in Santiago de Chile and other places in the country. “When Santiago was saturated, there were a lot of clinics that reached the maximum occupancy of beds and there were cities where they had availability, so we transferred patients to other cities using the Dorniers”, Seguel explains and highlights: “We have obtained a lot of performance from the Dorniers on Covid-19 flights”.
On the other hand, it is known that airlines have been negatively affected by the pandemic, but, for Aerocardal, it has been different, since passenger and cargo transport flights fell, but operations with Covid-19flights increased. In other words, they had an increase in the demand for medical flights and the transport of personnel. “All what are the flights out of the country for business and tourism fell completely”, explains Seguel and adds: “we were left with a month and a half of flights scheduled for Juan Fernández that we could not make due to Covid-19, because the island closed the entrance to avoid the virus and all the flights that were scheduled, most of them sold, had to be cancelled”.
In this way, Seguel assures that “we have remained more or less stable, but with an uncertainty of living almost from day to day, it is a rather terrifying situation because we have not done badly as the large airlines, but we live from day to day with uncertainty and that stresses us a lot”.
Likewise, Seguel warns: “The most important thing is to stay prepared, not lower the guard, security aspects and keeping customers loyal is very important for us” and says that “our disinfection protocols are spectacular, because we have an electronic ozone system for our airplanes, separation between seat and seat, when entering the company they take your temperature, there is quaternary ammonium in the entrance, alcohol everywhere, we have a large percentage of our people who are working remotely from home and only those that are necessary in the operational area”.
Finally, Seguel highlights: “we have to take many precautions, because we can infect our passengers and for that it is important to be very certain that the people who board the plane are inside a completely disinfected space”.