Wiltshire Air Ambulance

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Wiltshire Air Ambulance
Wiltshire Police Helicopter
Abbreviation WAA
Formation 1990
Legal status Registered charity and Police asset
Purpose Transporting critically ill and supporting police in Wiltshire and surrounding areas
Region served UK
Main organ Operations Support, Wiltshire Police
Parent organization Wiltshire Police and South West Ambulance Trust
Website http://www.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk

The Wiltshire Air Ambulance or Wiltshire Police Helicopter, is an air ambulance and police helicopter which responds to seriously ill or injured casualties and police incidents across Wiltshire. It one of only two helicopter services in the UK to be shared between the police and ambulance, the other being Magpas/Cambridgeshire Constabulary Air Operations Unit.

The service was formed in 1990 by the NHS Wiltshire and Wiltshire Police, as a way to respond to emergencies faster in Wiltshire, where accidents are usually in remote rural places.

In August 2012 Wiltshire Police announced they had extended their contract to work with the Wiltshire Air Ambulance for a year longer than planned to give time to plan their services once the contract ends.[1]

The collaboration between the two parties is planned to end in December 2014 when the current contract ends. Wiltshire Police will be the last police force to join the National Police Air Service and then will no longer require a vehicle based in county. Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal are hoping to increase fundraising to run the helicopter as an ambulance only, which will require £2.5million to buy the helicopter.[2]


The WAA became a stand alone charity in October 2011 and the current unique arrangement that is only seen in one other part of the UK. The helicopter is shared between Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust and Wiltshire Police. The venture that was started in 1990 costs £1.5 million a year, 66% is funded by Wiltshire Police and the other 33% is funded by the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust. The WAA receives no government funding or lottery funding, it is funded 100% by the people of Wiltshire. The size of Wiltshire and required funding means that every citizen costs 50pence each year.

By the end of 2014, Wiltshire Police will be forced to join the National Police Air Service and as such will not be funding the Air Ambulance, with the signing of the contract for the new Bell 429 Helicopter, Wiltshire Air Ambulance requires around £4 Million per year to keep the ambulance going.


The helicopter is a McDonnell Douglas 902 Explorer that is leased and maintained by Police Aviation Services, who also supply the trained pilots. The MD 902 has no tail rotor making it quieter and easier to land in small areas, it can fly at 140 mph and has a range of 1.5 hours. The helicopter is operational from 0800 hrs to 0300 hours all year round. It is staffed by 3 pilots, 4 observers and 6 paramedics; one of each always flies with the helicopter. The helicopter primarily serves Wiltshire but regularly works across the boundaries to support neighbouring Air Ambulances. Wiltshire Air Ambulance is the only Air Ambulance with the capability to fly and land anywhere at nigh, with 18% of all call outs currently occurring at night. MD 902 can scramble in less than 2 minutes and reach anywhere in the county within 11 minutes, although it can reach most destinations in less than 7 minutes.

Both its ambulance call sign and its police call sign is 'Whisky Hotel 99'. Its registration is G-WPAS

Between 2007 and the end of 2012 the helicopter has been called to 3868 different incidents an average just over 2 call outs a day.

Before April 2010, the helicopter had a navy blue body and tail, with a bright yellow engine cover. In April 2010 the helicopter was re-painted to preserve the bodywork and make it more visible. It now sports a navy blue tail with a bright yellow body and engine cover, reading 'Police' on one side and 'Ambulance' on the other.[3]

On 7 January 2014, it was announced that Wiltshire Air Ambulance had signed a 10-year contract with Heli Charter Ltd. for a Bell 429 Helicopter, the first in the United Kingdom to act as an Air Ambulance [4]


Wiltshire Police Helicopter features some of the most advanced technology out of all the emergency services helicopters in the UK, thanks to a £850,000 refit in January 2010. The new systems can pursue a person two and half miles from the aircraft, either in daytime or night-time cameras. The refit also included a new Tetra digital radio system. The helicopter is one of only two helicopters in the UK that can perform Ambulance missions at night. The refit was paid 50% by the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust, 40% by Wiltshire Police and 10% a police/government grant.[5]

Fund raising[edit]

The Wiltshire Air Ambulance is funded by the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust. Charity number 1144097 The charity raises money from several different sources. Mainly from their newly formed Lottery and business partnerships. The Westbury Charity shop, the only charity shop linked to the charity, has raised over £1.2million since it opened.

As the contract with the Wiltshire Police is coming to an end in 2014 the Charity need to raise funds to meet the cost of standing alone and funding the running costs of a helicopter estimated at £2.5million. This will ensure the Air Amublance service will be available to the County of Wiltshire.

In June 2010 Wiltshire Air Ambulance distanced itself from The Children's Air Ambulance, a startup charity that serves only children. The WAA feared that the public would donate to the CAA, who don't actually have an aircraft, instead of donating to the Wiltshire Air Ambulance.[6]

See also[edit]


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