Public gets first look at Wiltshire’s new Air Ambulance

Written by Peter Davison.

Wiltshire's new Air Ambulance - picture by Chris Watkins MediaWiltshire's new Air Ambulance - picture by Chris Watkins MediaWiltshire’s new Air Ambulance – with distinctive green and yellow markings and a big W on its belly – has been unveiled.

A fly-in and landing happened at Trafalgar Park, near Salisbury on Friday, and Sarah Troughton, the Lord-Lieutenant of Wiltshire, officially welcomed the new helicopter, a 180mph Bell 429.

The helicopter will come in to service in January, when Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s 24-year partnership with Wiltshire Police comes to an end.

Operating its own helicopter means the charity will need to raise £2.5 million a year – or £6,850 per day – to stay in the air.

The new helicopter will be leased from Heli Charter, Bell’s UK agent, based in Manston, Kent. Under the ten-year contract there is the option for a replacement helicopter to be provided after five years.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s chairman, Mandy Clarke, thanked supporters, volunteers and staff and said: “We are delighted to receive our new helicopter and begin a 10 year partnership with Heli Charter, who are providing the aircraft and the pilots.

“Our patients will benefit as the Bell 429 is fast so we can get patients to hospitals very quickly.

“We hope that the new colours and the distinctive ‘W’ will enable people to recognise us more easily when we fly and they can be proud to know that we are flying to save lives.”

The crew on the air ambulance will be a pilot and two paramedics. A doctor will fly with a paramedic on occasions.

Paramedics will continue to be provided by South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT). All of the paramedics have Critical Care Skills and have all worked on Wiltshire Air Ambulance previously.

Ken Wenman, chief executive of SWASFT, said: “I am delighted that SWASFT is able to continue its longstanding association with the Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

“Our crews on board the helicopter work tirelessly to provide seriously injured and ill patients across the county of Wiltshire and surrounding areas with the best possible care.

“This new helicopter will undoubtedly provide a benefit to patient care as well as providing the crews with a vehicle that is top of its class.”

Training for the pilots and paramedics will begin next month (November) and the air ambulance is due to start operating on January 1.

The air ambulance will fly up to 19 hours a day. Initially it will operate in the daytime with night flying commencing in Spring 2015. This is to allow the pilots to accumulate experience with the aircraft and operating area while at the same time training for night flying.

The air ambulance will operate from a hangar at Wiltshire Police Headquarters, Devizes, until the charity has found a suitable site to build a permanent home and visitor centre.

A shortlist of potential sites are being actively considered and it is hoped that a new base could be operational in two to three years.