20. October 2017 16:05 by Jamie Biesiada Dispatch, Richmond: Onboard a Skyservice Air Ambulance 20. October 2017 16:05 by Jamie Biesiada -- -- -- -- -- Senior editor Jamie Biesiada flew aboard a configured Bombardier Learjet 45XR to find out what it takes Allianz Global Assistance to conduct medical evacuations. View a slideshow here. RICHMOND, Va. -- Allianz Global Assistance receives thousands of requests for help each year from travelers. While the majority, around 6,500, tend to be requests for general assistance, a good number -- about 3,600 -- are requests for help with medical conditions or emergencies. Sometimes, those requests lead to a medical evacuation. Kimberly Seay, Allianz's director of assistant services and herself a nurse with a background in emergency and aeromedical medicine, is on the team that would make that happen. Seay's team employs a number of medical professionals like medical director Dr. William Brady, physicians with varying specialties from the University of Virginia, and around 30 registered nurses. Working collaboratively, they form a "virtual emergency room," enabling them to assess patients' status and needs and determine a course of action.In the most critical cases, that course of action is medical evacuation. I caught up with Seay aboard one of Skyservice Air Ambulance International's jets, a Bombardier Learjet 45XR, configured to be an airborne intensive care unit to medically evacuate patients. Many times, patients are able to be evacuated on commercial flights, Seay said. That could mean upgraded seating for them or an accompanying nurse. If they can't sit for the whole flight, it is possible to book blocks of seats to place a stretcher atop; in that case, they are only required to sit upright for takeoff and landing. But if that isn't possible, an air ambulance like the one we were on is often the best option. Allianz contracts with Skyservice to use its services because it doesn't maintain its own fleet of planes. The plane itself is small but comfortable. The configuration I saw this week had six passenger seats. Four in the back of the plane facing each other, and another two along plane's side next to a stretcher. Moving through the plane took some turning sideways, but was manageable; the stretcher seemed well-placed to be used by medical professionals seated next to it. Sam Cimone, president of Skyservice, said the plane could also be configured with two stretchers, used commonly for twin neonatal babies, mass casualty incidents, and the like. The single stretcher configuration can also be moved more toward the center of the plane, providing more access, if the seats next to it are removed. The Learjet 45XR has a bathroom at the back of the aircraft, with space for storage. Unlike commercial flights, the cockpit is open to the back of the plane. It is fully outfitted with medical equipment. We flew a loop from Richmond Airport towards Norfolk, Va., before circling back. Takeoff on the jet was smoother than any I've experienced on commercial flights over the past few years, definitely a good thing when transporting a patient. While it flew lower on our flight, Cimone said the air ambulance typically flies at around 45,000 feet, as opposed to the average of 33,000 feet for most commercial flights. The reasoning is twofold: First, turbulence is minimized at the higher level, and second, it helps Skyservice avoid air traffic and get to its destinations faster. "There are really no places on the planet we can't go," said Cimone, with the exception of the few places as far from land as Hawaii, because the plane is required to stop every 4.5 hours to refuel. As we approached Richmond Airport, we began our descent watching the city center in the distance. I always notice takeoffs and landings and how smooth they are. Luckily, our landing was just as smooth as our takeoff, undoubtedly a credit to both our pilots and the Bombardier Learjet 45XR. And considering that a patient being evacuated might be subjected to several refueling stops depending on origin and destination, undoubtedly a selling point for the air ambulance service, as well.