Early Air Ambulances

Airco DH 9A

Airco DH 9A

April 30, 2014 (Scottsdale, AZ)

Organized air medical flights were said to have taken place as early as 1917 in Turkey, when an injured soldier was flown to a hospital in an Airco DH. 9.


The Airco DH 9A was used in Somalia in the 1920s for medevac purposes during the African and Middle Eastern Colonial Wars. They were slow in comparison to today’s air ambulance jets, but still considered a vast improvement over transporting a wounded soldier by ground transportation.


The British made Airco DH 9A was designed as a light bomber and made its first flight in March 1918. It entered into service in July 1918, with the RAF 110 Squadron. The air ambulance version of the DH 9A was outfitted with an enclosed medical stretcher situated behind the pilot. The plane could only carry one patient at a time. During the Wars, the French were said to have transported more than 7,000 wounded soldiers using the DH 9A.


The first civilian air ambulances were often flown by bush pilots in remote areas like northern Canada, the outback of Australia, and sparsely populated areas of Scandinavia. In the late 1920s, the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia was established. The first year the organization was said to have flown 50 air medical flights and over 20,000 miles. They are known as the first operating civilian air ambulance company and are still in existence today. Today there are a number of air ambulance companies.  According to the Association of Air Medical Services, air ambulance companies transport approximately 500,000 patients per year in the U.S. In comparison, Angel MedFlight has flown patients all across the globe, totaling more than 3.1 million statute miles since its inception in 2007. From Saudi Arabia to Kenya, or the United States to Egypt, Angel MedFlight’s fleet of Learjets are flying intensive care units capable of transporting patients from across the country and around the world.

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