Kent Air Ambulance
The Kent Air Ambulance is an organisation providing emergency medical services through the provision of a helicopter air ambulance covering the county of Kent in the South East of England, United Kingdom. The helicopter is funded by the Kent Air Ambulance Trust (under the operating name of the Kent Air Ambulance Fund), which is a registered charity, raising money from public and private donations in excess of £4m every year between Kent, Sussex and Surrey.
Overview and history
The service is operated by the Kent Air Ambulance Trust, a registered charity established in 1989. The trust was founded by Kate Chivers (in whose honour the current helicopter is named), and was originally called the South East Thames Air Ambulance. Initially operated on a part-time basis, the air ambulance became a seven-day service in January 2000 and shortly afterwards moved from its original Rochester Airport base to its current base at Marden near Maidstone.
It operates one McDonnell-Douglas MD-902 Explorer helicopter (registration G-KAAT) from its headquarters in Marden. This location, combined with a its high cruise speed, quoted by Macdonnell Douglas as in excess of 150 mph, enables the crew to reach almost all of the county within 15 minutes of takeoff (the exception being the farther reaches of Thanet which may take up to 20 minutes to reach).
In March 2008 it was announced that the trust would be collaborating with Sussex Police to provide a night time rescue service utilising the Sussex police helicopter, Hotel 900, which is equipped to fly at night. Prior to this, the service was restricted to daylight operation only.
The £1.6m that it costs to run each year is funded almost entirely by voluntary donations and fund-raising, such as the sale of its own lottery tickets as it receives little government, National Lottery or NHS funding. The service has flown over 12,000 missions since its inception.
1998 Air Ambulance crash
The trust suffered a tragedy in July 1998 when the air ambulance (at the time a Eurocopter AS355 Twin Squirrel, registration G-MASK) crashed in good weather after colliding with power cables near Burham whilst returning to Rochester Airport following an aborted call to attend a road accident. All three crew - the pilot, Graham Budden, and two paramedics, Tony Richardson and Mark Darby - were killed on impact.
Initial investigation established no cause for the crash, due to the fireball produced on impact. Controversy ensued when the pilot's employers, Police Aviation Services, denied liability. On 19 February 2004, following a civil case brought by the pilot's widow to the High Court in Manchester, it ruled that the crash was caused by mechanical failure not, as had been suggested, flying low for fun, and ordered compensation to be paid.
In June 2007, following a two-year fundraising campaign, spearheaded by Penelope Keith, the trust began operating a second helicopter from a new base at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, serving the Surrey and Sussex area. This new service operates as the Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance. This aircraft has since relocated to Redhill Aerodrome and is now night flight capable.
- Charity Commission. Kent Air Ambulance Trust, registered charity no. 1021367.
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