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Chopper deal in the air, but costs still high

By Zheng Xin  (China Daily)

10:50, November 15, 2011

A "patient" is brought to a helicopter during an emergency medical drill organized by the 999 Emergency Center and Beijing Capital Airlines on Oct 11. Lan Di / for China Daily

BEIJING - Emergency-response centers in the capital are in talks to improve the coverage of airlift rescue.

The 999 Emergency Center and the 120 Emergency Medical Center are both negotiating with Beijing Capital Airlines to provide a helicopter service.

"The helicopters play a significant role in search and rescue," said Li Jianren at the 120 Center. "Considering the medical insurance system and the size of the city, however, it will still take a few years before we have a free airlift rescue."

Apart from the police chopper kept by the city's public security bureau, which is used for large search and rescue operations, the only operations the public can turn to when they need an urgent airlift are commercial companies offering pleasure rides.

At more than 30,000 yuan ($4,700) an hour, the service is not an affordable option for most people. If the emergency centers cut a deal, that is likely to cut the cost, but only slightly.

"We haven't come up with a final price for an airlift rescue, but it will probably be about 20,000 to 25,000 yuan (an hour), much lower than a commercial lease," said Song Liang, a spokesman for Beijing Capital Airlines.

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