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The Osaka College of Aviation Technology plans to introduce in the near future the nation’s first air ambulance service funded by the private sector. Under the new Civil Aeronautics Law that took effect Tuesday, the transport minister’s permission will no longer be necessary for commercial helicopters to land or take off outside of airports or heliports. The college, which trains pilots and aircraft maintenance crew, plans to launch the helicopter service as a way to capitalize on the deregulation. Its aircraft will be manned with doctors and nurses. The school will use its heliports in Ieshima, Hyogo Prefecture, and Shingu, Wakayama Prefecture, when it begins carrying patients to hospitals. “Although the starting date has yet to be set, we are ready to launch the service any time in the near future, and we have already purchased a helicopter (for that purpose),” said school official Tsuyoshi Tanaka, who is in charge of the project. The air ambulance operation is being organized in cooperation with the Hyogo College of Medicine, he added. At first, the school will offer the service for free. “As we build experience and knowhow, we hope to collect funds from local governments and hospitals in and around the area and establish a network where doctors can make emergency house calls by helicopter,” Tanaka said. The school also plans to eventually expand the type of medical equipment to be carried aloft. Helicopters are widely used for emergency airlifts in Europe and America; the service is vital in rural areas inaccessible to conventional ambulances. The Health and Welfare Ministry embarked on a model project using helicopters for medical purposes in Kawasaki jointly with commercial heliport companies last November. The Osaka school will be the first in the private sector to launch such a project.

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