When Pata Honda Superbike World Championship rider Leon Haslam broke his tibia and fibula in a high-speed crash at Assen this past April, he and his family had to make a critical medical decision.
Option 1: Wait in The Netherlands until the swelling subsided before the local medical staff could carry out their preferred treatment of plating the tibia, likely resulting in a longer recovery. Option 2: Return to Queen’s Medical Centre Nottingham in the U.K. and have the tibia pinned as quickly as possible.
Option 2 was the clear choice, but transportation was an issue. Because of his medical condition, Haslam would not be permitted to get on a commercial flight, and driving back in the family motorhome, either across the North Sea on a ferry or via the Channel Tunnel, was going to take a while and be more than a little uncomfortable.
The decision became easier after Pata Honda team manager Ronald ten Kate received a phone call from Rieko Dalhuisen, sales and marketing manager for JetNetherlands, a Dutch executive-jet company. One week before the Assen round, Dalhuisen had attended Ten Kate Pitstop Day, the annual jamboree when the Ten Kate dealership and the Pata Honda team’s workshop are thrown open to the fans to have a look around, enjoy a variety of entertainment and meet the riders.
JetNetherlands Provides Flight Support For Injured Motorcycle Racers
That experience was fresh in Dalhuisen’s mind when he heard about Haslam’s crash, and his first instinct was to see if there was anything he or his company could do. The following day, Haslam was flown back to the U.K. to have his broken leg pinned. Just four weeks later, the second-generation racer was back on his CBR1000RR for his home round at Donington Park.
“We always try to have a private jet ready for departure within two hours,” Dalhuisen said. “In Leon’s case, it was a bit different as he needed an ambulance jet with medical crew. To turn the aircraft from a private jet into an air ambulance takes about 3.5 hours. So, from the first telephone call to the time we took off, it was around five hours.”
“This time,” Dalhuisen said, “we did not have to rush the conversion as we had two days to make the arrangements. We had a stretcher built in and a flight nurse with us in case Jonathan needed assistance.”
Between those two emergencies, Yamaha MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo crashed at Sachsenring, bending the plate that had been fitted after he broke his collarbone in practice at the Dutch TT. JetNetherlands flew Lorenzo from Germany to Spain for a second surgery.
Five months later, at the Nürburgring in Germany, Haslam’s teammate, Jonathan Rea, crashed and fractured his left femur. This time, ten Kate called Dalhuisen, and within a couple of days, Rea was on a direct flight to his home on the Isle of Man.
“About an hour after we saw Jorge crash at Sachsenring in the second free practice, I had a call from [Lorenzo’s team manager] Wilco Zeelenberg,” Dalhuisen said. “I knew Wilco from an earlier flight after we took Ben Spies from Amsterdam to Groningen in 2011. Our Piaggio arrived two hours later and flew Jorge back to Barcelona. For him, we did not have to convert the aircraft into ambulance mode, which allowed us to act fast.”
Willem de Kruif founded JetNetherlands almost 12 years ago. Prior to his death last August, de Kruif grew JetNetherlands to become one of the major players in the Benelux area, offering a variety of jets for between four and 10 passengers.
“Our operating area is the whole of Europe and North Africa,” Dalhuisen said, “and we have three Piaggio aircraft that can all fly as an air ambulance if needed.”