Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust has signed a 10 year contract with Heli-Charter Ltd for a new helicopter, to come into service by December, when the lease on the current 12-year-old aircraft expires.
The trust will no longer share an aircraft with Wiltshire Police which means it needs to find £2.5 million annually – £7,000 daily – which is three times the present total.
Every penny counts. Wiltshire Air Ambulance community ambassador Cyril Mannion visited Haydonleigh Primary School on 9 January to give a talk about the work of the charity which started 23 years ago after the Wiltshire Police helicopter transported an injured person to hospital. He received a donation of £228.74 which was collected at performances of the school’s Christmas show. Photo: Richard Wintle www.calyxpix.com
After a great deal of deliberation over the last 18 months, WAACT trustees selected a Bell 429, which is the world’s newest and most advanced light twin-engine helicopter.
Wiltshire will be the first in the UK to operate it as an air ambulance. The aircraft will be fitted out with the most recent Aerolite equipment to meet the highest helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) specification.
Starting in late autumn, the contract covers the provision, maintenance and flying of the aircraft for up to 19 hours a day, every day of the year. It also includes a replacement helicopter in five years’ time.
Paramedics and other medical support will continue to be provided by South West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SWAST).
The charity spent nearly two years reviewing its options when it became clear that the current partnership with Wiltshire Police would terminate at the end of this year, when they are mandated to use aircraft provided by the National Police Air Service.
The helicopter will be built in Mirabel, Canada, before being adapted to air ambulance configuration.
This will make it capable of carrying one or two pilots and two or three paramedics, as well as a patient on a stretcher.
The new aircraft, an example pictured left, is set to be in service by 1 December.
WAACT chairman Richard Youens said: “With the loss of our collaboration with the police we will need to fund the full cost of provision.
“I can say with confidence that, thanks to the passionate support the charity receives from so many people in Wiltshire, the necessary funds will be found.”
Find out more at www.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk.