The first of three brand-new helicopters which will begin operations with the Wales Air Ambulance Charity next year has touched down in the UK.
The aircraft, which landed in Gloucestershire airport last week, will make up part of the charity’s new fleet of three H145 aircraft which is expected to become operational next spring.
The Wales Air Ambulance Charity will become only the third HEMS (helicopter emergency medical service) operation in the UK to use the new H145 aircraft.
Angela Hughes, chief executive of the Wales Air Ambulance Charity, said: “It is fantastic to see work on our new fleet progressing like this. This new model will be a key part in ensuring we provide one of the most modern HEMS services in Europe for many years to come.
“The new models represent a significant upgrade on our current fleet. They will be equipped for night flights and help take us a step closer to our goal of providing a 24-hour air ambulance service.
“In addition, the new aircraft will have a larger cabin allowing for more room for treatments in-flight, as well as more powerful engines, which means they can fly for longer without refuelling.
“We’ve been able to secure this upgrade thanks to the amazing support of the Welsh public. And we need their continued help to keep the new helicopters in the air.”
The aircraft is currently being worked on by helicopter operator Babcock, who will install the specialist equipment required to transform it into one of the UK’s most advanced and capable air ambulances.
Babcock managing director, Tim Shattock, said: “We are working closely with the Wales Air Ambulance Charity to provide them with one of the world’s most advanced fleet of air ambulances.
“As well as a full on-board medical suite the aircraft will be designed with the specialist technologies to equip it for night flights. It will also be fitted with an on-board high-speed encrypted internet connection allowing the air ambulance crew to send critical information about patients to medics waiting at hospitals.”
As well as providing the aircraft, Babcock will also operate and maintain them on behalf of the charity as part of a contract awarded earlier this year. Babcock currently operates four EC135 models for the Wales Air Ambulance.
The three H145 models will operate from Wales Air Ambulance Charity bases in Welshpool, Caernarfon and its new headquarters in Llanelli. The fourth helicopter, which is the dedicated children’s aircraft for neo-natal transfers, will remain an EC135.