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 emergency air ambulances in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are operated by charities, while 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. The first night time ambulance flight was undertaken in February 1939, from Wideford to the island of Sanday, using car headlights to help take off and landing. The aircraft used was a General Aircraft Monospar, registration 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, Wales, and Northern Ireland, all of these services are charitably funded, and either directly owned by the charity, or 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 (Eurocopter EC135), operated by Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance.

Organisation Radio call-sign Aircraft Registration Photograph
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 2 x AW169 G-PICU
Helimed 81 G-TCAA
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 2 x H145 G-RESU
Helimed 88 G-HEMC
Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Helimed 07 MD 902 G-EHEM G-EHEM MD902 Explorer Helicopter (37454369434).jpg
Helimed 55 AW169 G-HHEM
Great North Air Ambulance Helimed 58 3 × AS365 G-NHAA
Helimed 63 G-NHAB
Helimed 58 or 63 (operates as spare) G-NHAC
Great Western Air Ambulance Helimed 65 EC135 G-GWAC
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance Helimed 56 EC135 G-HIOW
Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex 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's Air Ambulance (HEMS) Helimed 27
Helimed 28 spare unit for major incidents
2 x MD 902

(One spare)

Magpas Air Ambulance Helimed 66 AW169 G-MGPS
Midlands Air Ambulance Helimed 03 H145 G-RMAA
Helimed 06 2 x 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 3 x EC135 G-NWAA G-NWAA
Helimed 72 G-NWAE
Helimed 75 G-NWEM
Northern Ireland Air Ambulance Helimed 23 2 x EC135 G-NIHM

Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance Helimed 76 EC135 G-SCAA
Scottish Air Ambulance Helimed 02 2 x EC145 G-SASN
Helimed 05 G-SASS G-SASS (16716130046).jpg
Gama xxx 2 x 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
and Children's Air Ambulance Wales
Helimed 57 3 x H145 G-WENU
Helimed 59 G-WOBR
Helimed 61 G-WROL
Helimed 67 (Children's) 1 x EC135 G-WASC
Wiltshire Air Ambulance Helimed 22 Bell 429 G-WLTS
G-KSSH, MD 902 from SAS, whilst G-WLTS is grounded.
Yorkshire Air Ambulance Helimed 98 2 x 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]

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.

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. Archived from the original on 19 June 2015. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  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]