Wiltshire Air Ambulance given go-ahead to begin flying

Wiltshire air ambulance Image copyright Chris Watkins Media
Image caption It will cost £2.5m per year to fund Wiltshire's new dedicated air ambulance

Wiltshire's new air ambulance has been given the go-ahead to begin flying on emergency missions.

It is the first time the county has had a dedicated air ambulance, having shared an aircraft with the police for the last 24 years.

The charity responsible said it was making "aviation history" with its Bell 429 - the first of its type to operate as an air ambulance in the UK.

It will cost about £6,850 per day to keep the leased helicopter flying.

Kevin Reed, head of operations at Wiltshire Air Ambulance, said the helicopter could reach anywhere in the county within 11 minutes.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance in numbers

  • £2.5m - annual cost to run
  • 365 - days a year availability
  • 156 - knots top speed (180mph)
  • 19 - daily hours of flight
  • 11 - minutes to reach anywhere in Wiltshire
  • 2 - paramedics on board
  • 1 - pilot, patient and passenger on board

It will be based at Wiltshire Police headquarters in Devizes until a site has been found to build a permanent home and visitor centre.

"We are pleased to be pioneering a brand new helicopter in the UK as this means that the people of Wiltshire will be benefiting from the best available technology and the experience of some of the country's leading pilots," said Mr Reed.

"This is a new and exciting era for the charity to operate a dedicated air ambulance with two Critical Care paramedics onboard."

The pilots will not be able to fly the air ambulance at night until late Spring, once further training has been completed and experience with the helicopter gained.

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