Air ambulances in the United Kingdom

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Air Ambulances in the United Kingdom

Air ambulance services in the United Kingdom are provided by a mixture of organisations, operating either helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft to respond to medical emergencies, and transport patients to, from, or between points of definitive care. These air ambulances fulfil both emergency medical services functions, as well as patient transport between specialist centres, or as part of a repatriation operation. All air ambulances in England and Wales are operated by charities, whilst Scotland has one charity service - in addition to its four NHS-funded aircraft.


The first air ambulance services in the UK commenced in Scotland in November 1933 with a flight from Wideford Airport, Kirkwall Orkney and in February 1939 the first night time ambulance flight was undertaken from Wideford to the island of Sanday, using car headlights to help take off and landing. The aircraft used was a General Aircraft Monospar G-ACEW operated by Highland Airways.

Emergency air ambulances[edit]

Emergency air ambulances are generally helicopter based, and used to respond to medical emergencies in support of local ambulance services. In England and Wales, all of these services are charitably funded, and operated under contract with a private provider.[1] The ambulance staff crewing these flights are generally seconded from the local NHS ambulance service. In Scotland, there is the only publicly funded air ambulance service, with the Scottish Ambulance Service operating two helicopters and two fixed wing aircraft in this role, alongside a single charity helicopter (EC135), operated by Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance.

Charity Radio call-sign Aircraft Reg Photo
Cornwall Air Ambulance Helimed 01 2 × MD-902

(One spare)

The Air Ambulance Service Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland

Air Ambulance

Helimed 54 AW109SP G-TAAS
Warwickshire & Northamptonshire

Air Ambulance

Helimed 53 AW109SP G-HEMZ
Children's Air Ambulance

(emergency patient transfers only)

Helimed 80 2x AW169 G-PICU

Helimed 81

Devon Air Ambulance Helimed 70 2 × EC135 G-DAAN
Helimed 71 G-DVAA
Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Helimed 10 AW169 G-DSAA
East Anglian Air Ambulance Helimed 85 2x H145 G-RESU
Helimed 88 G-HEMC
Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Helimed 07 MD902 G-EHEM G-EHEM MD902 Explorer Helicopter (37454369434).jpg

Helimed 55

Great North Air Ambulance Helimed 58 3 × AS-365 G-NHAA
Helimed 63 G-NHAB
Helimed 58 or 63 (operates as spare)


Great Western Air Ambulance Helimed 65 EC-135 G-GWAC
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance Helimed 56 EC 135 G-HIOW
Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Helimed 60 2 x AW169 G-KSST G-KAAT
Helimed 21 G-KSSC G-KAAC
Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance Helimed 29 AW169 G-LNAC
London Air Ambulance (HEMS) Helimed 27
(Spare) Helimed 28 for major incidents
2 x MD902

(One spare)

Magpas Air Ambulance Helimed 66 AW169


Midlands Air Ambulance Helimed 03 H145 G-RMAA
Helimed 06 2x EC135 G-OMAA G-OMAA Eurocopter EC135 Helicopter Babcocok Mission Critical Services Onshore Ltd (32312619222).jpg
Helimed 09 G-HWAA
North West Air Ambulance Helimed 08 3x EC135 G-NWAA G-NWAA
Helimed 72 G-NWAE
Helimed 75 G-NWEM
Northern Ireland Air Ambulance Helimed 23 2x EC135 G-NIHM

Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance Helimed 76 EC135


Scottish Air Ambulance Helimed 02 2x EC145 G-SASN
Helimed 05 G-SASS G-SASS (16716130046).jpg
Gama xxx 2x King Air 200C G-SASC G-SASC
Thames Valley Air Ambulance Helimed 24 EC135 G-TVAL G-TVAL Airbus Helicopters H135 Babcock Mission Critical Services Onshore Ltd (41080891701).jpg
Wales Air Ambulance Helimed 57 3x H145 G-WENU

Helimed 59


Helimed 61

Children's Wales Air Ambulance Helimed 67 (Children's) 1 x EC135 G-WASC
Wiltshire Air Ambulance Helimed 22 Bell 429


G-KSSH, MD902 from SAS, whilst G-WLTS is grounded.
Yorkshire Air Ambulance Helimed 98 2x H145 G-YOAA
Helimed 99 G-YAAC

Patient transport operations[edit]

Privately operated fixed wing air ambulance from the UK

There are also a number of patient transport operations in the UK, generally using fixed wing aircraft, and which are part of a system of moving patients between points of care, or as part of a repatriation to the UK. There is a helicopter based patient transfer service, focused on paediatric cases, called the Children's Air Ambulance, which first flew in 2012.[2] In 2017, G-HEMZ was retasked to emergency HEMS operations with the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance and replaced with 2 brand new AgustaWestland AW169 helicopters - registered G-TCAA and G-PICU.

The Scottish Ambulance Service operates two fixed wing aircraft in this role, with patients flown to the mainland UK for treatment.[3] In 2015 the neonatal, paediatric and adult emergency care and retrieval operations were brought together with the Scottish Ambulance Service and utilise the aircraft and road ambulances for this purpose. They are co-located at the Scottish Ambulance Air Base at Glasgow International Airport.

SkyAngels Air Ambulance is the UK's first planned jet equipped air ambulance charity. Plans are for a Bombardier Learjet aircraft to operate in 2020 on behalf of the general public and support the NHS within the UK. Charity number: 1168225

Notable accidents involving air ambulances[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Amazing Facts about your Air Ambulance". Association of Air Ambulances. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
  2. ^ "The Children's Air Ambulance". Express and Echo. 18 December 2012.
  3. ^ "New air ambulance for NI after flight ordeal". BBC news.
  4. ^ Air Accidents Investigation Branch. "BN2A-26 Islander, G-BEDZ, 19 May 1996". GOV.UK. Department for Transport, Air Accidents Investigation Branch. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  5. ^ Helicopter crash kills three BBC News, 27 July 1998
  6. ^ "AAIB Bulletin No: 2/2000" (PDF). Air Accidents Investigation Branch. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 March 2009. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
  7. ^ "Air ambulance crash pilot cleared". BBC News. 19 February 2004.
  8. ^ "Piper PA-31-350, G-BMBC" (PDF). AAIB. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
  9. ^ "Air crew search called off". BBC News. 15 March 2005.

External links[edit]